As holding companies – and larger independents – do combat in the talent wars,LA-based agency, The Roster is finding that clients big and small are waging a battle of their own: to put out effective advertising without the fuss, bureaucracy and overhead attached to “the majors.” “What we’re doing is about efficiency and practicality,” says Founder/ECD Kiki Gomez, whose clients include K-Swiss, Midea, Lexus, Kasa Smart, Belkin, and many more. “There really isn’t a ‘secret sauce.’”
“Depending on how we are briefed by clients in the RFP, I assemble what I think is the best team to work the creative development,” he continues, “and I wear whatever hats are needed to get the job done right. That includes producing, writing, directing, you name it.” The result is a highly cost-efficient, multifaceted agency-production hybrid process that is more hands-on – and less complicated – than most.
“Working with The Roster meant ease of mind,” says K-Swiss Global Marketing Director Gabby Gomez (no relation). “They came to the table with not only creative concepts but equally creative, nimble solutions for execution within K-Swiss’ budget.”
For the brand, The Roster designed and realized “Club K-Swiss” a society for those who take the road less traveled. The spot stars Venus Williams, a former world No. 1 in both singles and doubles, widely regarded as one of the all-time greats of women’s tennis. The spot relies as much on the copy as the visual storytelling, and here The Roster’s Gomez stepped in as a creative, bringing sports/action filmmaker (and Tiger King DP) Damien Drake on board as director. Watch:
“The pandemic was without a doubt our biggest challenge,” K-Swiss’s Gomez continues. “We had Venus Williams, a world-renowned athlete who was still competing, and we needed to keep her healthy and safe. The Roster found an entire hotel where the crew and Venus would be the only people inside and made sure that everything was pandemic-proof. Any hurdle we came up against, The Roster had the solution.”
Perhaps the best example of The Roster’s approach is another of its latest spots, for Midea: Set in a conference room, “Yeti” spoofs focus groups, contending that no one can appreciate a good air conditioner better than an abominable snowman. The creative, by noted CD’s Paul Oberlin and Win Bates, uses a sincere, if indelicate, yeti to make its point, while the execution has a light touch perfectly calibrated to Midea’s target audience. Watch below:
In many ways, The Roster recalls Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory: irreverent, unapologetic, and whip-smart, with the right blend of magic and mastery to produce singular, sumptuous chocolate bars of all shapes and sizes. For Gomez, all parties win when the process is swift, smooth, and fun. “I’ve always been a great salesman, and, originally, The Roster was going to be a repping firm,” Gomez recalls. “But when I had the opportunity to write, and to produce, I realized an end-to-end solution was much more beneficial to the client than a talent-driven cluster-f**k. It wasn’t about ‘Look at me!’ It was ‘Look at the brand!’ We are fine being the vendor.”
This is not to minimize The Roster’s emphasis on creative. “I would argue that the idea gets much more oxygen here than at the big agencies,” says Gomez. “We’re in a better position to sell it through, because it’s just us and the client in a room together, getting it done.”
With projects like Kasa Smart “Proposal,” The Roster also vacillates comfortably between comedy and pathos. An antidote to the remote security commercials that focus on scaring away unwanted visitors, this spot touts the client’s utility in transforming your house into a smart home, perfectly setting the mood, tone, and environment for a marriage proposal.
“We knew we needed stellar video ads that would catch the eye of prospective consumers while showing off some of our newest products,” relates Nitesh Dutt of Kasa Smart. “We were a small marketing team in a growing company searching to set ourselves apart from the rest of our industry. Our team searched high and low before realizing Kiki and his team at The Roster were the perfect fit. They brought incredibly creative ideas to the table that fit what we were trying to achieve while being flexible enough to make changes on the fly.”
Dutt adds that “the biggest challenge going into the project was not just a lack of creative assets, but a lack of working products. We knew how every aspect of our products would act and work (like lights, sounds, etc.), but none were actually in production yet and still in early beta. The Roster team knew this and understood our dilemma, asking all the right questions of our team to make sure they were able to put those little touches in during post-production. Collaborating with The Roster was an incredible experience.”
Revered industry CMO (and President of K-Swiss Global Brands at the time of the Venus Williams project) Barney Waters likens The Roster to “a natural extension of our team. They quickly got what we were trying to say, as they understand the culture and landscape of the market we’re operating in, but their execution is way better than we could do ourselves. They took our idea, improved it, and brought it to life. And they did it really quickly.”
As always, budget played a part, and Waters noted, “Being a small brand, you want the visual quality of the creative you see from the bigger brands, but you don’t have the means to produce it. The Roster was able to give us big brand quality but with the resource constraints of being a challenger brand. They were able to add emotion and mission to the creative, adding layers of depth to the brand’s voice.”
“You get into this business because you’re a dreamer,” Gomez concludes. “The client has a dream, too. Our job is to pull together the right people, make a plan, and make it real.”