2 Minutes With ... Rhonda Contreras of The Richards Group

On Lego's modern messaging and artfully telling the Native American story for Choctaw

Rhonda Contreras, chief collaboration officer of The Richards Group, is devoted to finding the untapped potential in a person, a client, or a campaign, then helping make said people and projects the best they can be through collaboration, sharing experiences and sheer determination.

Rhonda joined The Richards Group in 2006 to work on Home Depot. Since then, she's led agency's efforts on Chuck E. Cheese, Summer's Eve, ULTA Beauty, Zale's, Cache Creek Casino Resort, Choctaw Casinos & Resorts and Firehouse Subs. She also leads the agency's experiential practice, latitude, which brings brands to life through events and experiences.

As a member of the agency's leadership team, Rhonda is responsible for facilitating the creation of resources, the removal of barriers, and the sharing of best practices to reach new levels of collaboration and engagement across the agency.

Rhonda graduated from the University of Arkansas with a B.A. in business administration and earned her MBA from Indiana University. She and her husband Ivan spend their weekends on Lake Texoma with their Goldendoodles, Sir Francis Bacon and Lady Godiva, on their aptly named boat, the Nauti Dog.

We spent two minutes with Rhonda to learn more about her background, her creative inspirations, and recent work she's admired.

Rhonda, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I was born and raised in Little Rock, Arkansas, and even spent the first 10 years of my career there. My desire to do advertising on a national stage spurred me on to Dallas and The Richards Group.

How you first realized you were creative.

As the youngest of four kids, I've been a collaborator and creative problem solver my whole life. I consider it a basic survival skill that I was fortunate to learn very early on.

A person you idolized creatively early on.

Mary Wells Lawrence. I read A Big Life in Advertising and knew I had found my calling.

A visual artist or band/musician you admire.

Andrea Bocelli. Laura Pausini. Eros Ramazzotti. Johnny Cash. Dolly Parton. Willie Nelson. ABBA. Beastie Boys. Fleetwood Mac. Queen. André Rieu. Glenn Miller Orchestra. When words fail, music speaks, and I love all of it.

A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.

It's not new, but Simon Sinek's simple book, Together Is Better, offers 100 little reminders of the importance of empathy, inclusivity and leadership as we continue to rebuild into a people-first agency.

Your favorite fictional character.

Rocky Balboa taught me early on that it's not how hard you can hit, but how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. Words of wisdom from an unlikely source, I know, but I remind myself of them almost daily.

Someone or something worth following in social media.

View From My Window. As we all have isolated over the past year, it has been both humbling and inspirational to see the simplest parts of the world through other people's eyes.

How Covid-19 changed your life, personally or professionally.

I've become more empathetic, more transparent, more vulnerable. We are literally all in this together, so why try to be anything else?

One of your favorite creative projects you've ever worked on.

After a building implosion failed right across the highway from The Richards Group, social media dubbed it The Leaning Tower of Dallas, and our creative team saw an opportunity to interject our client into that conversation. Twelve hours later, we projected a message for Choctaw Casinos & Resorts from our parking lot, across the highway, and onto what was left of the building. The image spread all over social media, even before the police shut us down 90 minutes later. I love that project for its creativity, immediacy, and simplicity—and the fact that it was built on years of trust fostered with our client.

A recent project you're proud of.

As part of its recent $600 million expansion, Choctaw Casinos & Resorts featured dozens of art pieces created by Native American artists throughout its new property. We created a digital art walk experience so guests can take a self-guided art tour around the property, showcasing the pieces and the artists who created them in video vignettes. It's a great example of collaboration and innovation, but more importantly, an opportunity to tell the Native American story, and it is a privilege to be part of that.

Choctaw Casinos & Resorts | Art Walk
Someone else's work that inspired you years ago.

While not a specific campaign, my early fascination with advertising's ability to shape culture is encapsulated in Art & Copy. I've had professional crushes on most every icon featured in that documentary and have followed many of them like a schoolgirl throughout my career.

Art & Copy Trailer
Someone else's work you admired lately.

I love how Lego is building on its heritage of creativity and innovation to bravely tackle modern cultural themes with childlike acceptance and grace. Under the umbrella of Rebuild the World, Lego celebrates the "power of playing together" with its Everyone Is Awesome play set and educates on climate change with its Green Instructions in rebuilt Lego sets. The brand—and its creative work—is more endearing and enduring than ever.

Lego | Rebuild the World
Your main strength as a creative person.

My role as chief collaboration officer lets me do what I do best: creative problem-solving. Every day, I get to help disciplines within our agency come together to operate as one, while encouraging a plurality of perspectives and solutions. The result is smarter work and a stronger, more equitable culture. Basically, it's my dream job.

Your biggest weakness.

Is also my biggest strength: No matter what, I tend to take ownership of the situation. And as my husband reminds me, not every problem is mine to fix.

One thing that always makes you happy.

Our Goldendoodles, Sir Francis Bacon and Lady Godiva. It's impossible not to be happy around them.

One thing that always makes you sad.

Potential that goes unrealized.

What you'd be doing if you weren't in advertising.

Training dolphins in the Bahamas. A girl can dream.

2 Minutes With is our regular interview series where we chat with creatives about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about 2 Minutes With, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.

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