Global marketing firm RDB appoints strategic director for PH office

(Edited Press Release)

RDB (Robin des Bois)—a global boutique agency based in Viena, Austria that launched its Asia-Pacific hub in Manila in the last quarter of 2020—has announced the appointment of its newest Strategic Director. RDB Asia Pacific welcomes Ricky Santillan, an advertising and marketing professional with a long and interesting work history.

True to form, Santillan has managed to go beyond his limits and stretched his legs as far as they could take him in the Advertising & Marketing industry. Six countries, over ten years and countless pitches later, Santillan is sharper than ever and his hunger for more has led him back to the Philippines, where the magical journey began, back home and now with a new agency to call home.

RDB Asia Pacific was in hot pursuit of a strategic head, after having recently launched regional operations, who knew both the landscape and the industry in and out. With the backdrop of a global pandemic and a region on edge, it was important to find not only a strong sage with the knowledge to impart and contribute to a young and dynamic team of creatives but, likewise, have the calming wisdom that’s been tested by time.

Santillan’s rich experience and know-how represent a steady sail. Having lived and worked across the Asia Pacific Region, Santillan has had the opportunity to build brands with the biggest local and international companies in various Asian markets. Having seen his fair share of strong winds, from Asia’s financial crises to its digital adolescence, he’s billowed through great challenges but managed to propel countless ships across perilous waters.

His beginnings

Starting out as a copywriter in Lintas Manila, he was able to find his calling in Advertising and Marketing as he was made to handle the agency’s Unilever and Ovaltine clients among others. It was working with these major accounts that Santillan was sent to Shanghai, China to save the Ovaltine account from going into an agency pitch. That was when Santillan was bitten by the bug to explore further out into the other markets of the region.

He secured a role in one of the biggest networks at the time, Bates 141, as they needed to manage the Coca-Cola account in Indonesia. There he was able to lead teams to work on other blue-chip clients like P&G, Wendy’s, HSBC, Toyota, Heineken, BAT, and Shell. For HSBC he led the creative team that worked on the HSBC campaign to preserve the reefs of Sulawesi. As the Asian Meltdown hit in 1998, Santillan played a crucial role in ensuring projects kept going in the Jakarta office.

Later, Santillan was assigned to the Myanmar office to lead the creative team and handle Bates 141’s big clients of BAT, Unilever, Dumex, United Pharma, and Myanmar Brewery Limited. With Myanmar Brewery Limited he developed the iconic campaign that launched Myanmar Beer and made it the number one beer in the country. Due to his success in raising the level of the creative department, Santillan represented the agency in the Cannes Advertising Festival of 2000. He was the first-ever official Cannes Advertising Festival representative of the country.

Going regional

Promoted to a role that entailed handling multiple countries at the same time, Santillan was then assigned to handle regional work across Myanmar, Cambodia, and Vietnam. This allowed him to work with additional clients in MobiTel, Caltex, Ford as well as various NGOs like PSI to work on campaigns that centered around folk marketing to reduce the spread of HIV which was ravaging Cambodia.

With his second trip to the Cannes Advertising Festival in 2003 representing 141 Cambodia, Santillan discovered the world of Digital Advertising and Marketing. This is when he knew he had to branch out into that nascent field. So, he founded Dual Action Blender in Manila in 2005 and secured major business from the likes of Johnson & Johnson, Nestle, HSBC, and more. This he did by pitching against major multinationals for the accounts. This led to Santillan leading the team that won the James Burke Award for Marketing Excellence within the Johnson & Johnson global network. Dual Action Blender also worked on UNICEF campaigns against domestic violence and created materials for DKT to help promote planned parenthood which was a taboo subject in the country.

With Dual Action Blender he forged a joint venture partnership with ZenithOptimedia which was then one of the largest media agencies in the Philippine Market. This allowed him to learn more about Digital Advertising, Marketing, and Content. It also paved the way for one of his biggest pitch wins. In 2013, going against top global agencies in the region, Santillan led the team that secured the Telenor account in Myanmar. It was an opportunity where he was able to prove that digital efficiency outweighs spending as he led the team that grew Telenor’s Social Media presence to make it number one against a better-funded Ooredoo.

This allowed Santillan to open the Dual Action Blender Yangon office where he secured more clients like Unilever, United Pharma as well as big local companies. Introducing the company to the Myanmar market, he worked out a deal with NGOs like OXFAM UK and Action Contre La Faim to allow them to use the company services to help people with their various WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) projects in the country, including those earmarked for the Rohingya IDP camps.

Coming home

Armed with his digital experience he returned to the Philippines where he worked on the client side for JTI Philippines and Rubicon Crossings to allow them to come up with solid digital strategies.

He was also contracted by BBDO for their pitch to secure the regional Facebook account which focused on the Myanmar market. He was able to help the BBDO team win the account by providing insight into the market.

With a strong belief in training and educating the next generation of marketers and advertisers, Santillan has served as a Senior Lecturer for the Heriot-Watt University – Edinburgh Business School MBA Programme marketing module of the Strategy First University in Yangon, an E-Marketing Resource Speaker for the Ateneo de Manila Professional School and a faculty member of the Marketing Department of the De La Salle University in Manila.