What I Learned in 2014: Rafi Kugler, Director of Recruiting, barrettSF

By Egotist / /

First off, I’m truly honored that the folks at barrettSF asked me to contribute to this piece. After all, I think I’m like employee number 15. And I don’t think I’m funnier or a better writer than the first 14. Maybe they made a mistake? Maybe Brad Phifer was in the bathroom when Jamie, Patrick and Pete looked around the room? Did I raise a hand unknowingly that was more of a stretch? I don’t know. Well, here goes.

This past year I came over to work at barrettSF. If you’re a devout SF Egotist reader, you might remember seeing a little video piece of me recruiting myself over here. A split-screen phone conversation that took place with me, and well, me. It was definitely homemade in every sense of the word. Our own talented Brad Kayal shot it on his digi cam, and then edited it. We called in sound mixing favors from a studio up the street. We asked people to keep it down while we shot it inside the agency. And it was entirely a blast to make. Which brings me to the first thing I learned being here: Sometimes if feels like you’re twelve years old all over again.

If you happened to be a kid during the 80’s, you might remember a time when you made silly homemade ads for something like Charleston Chew Candy bars with your buddies using one of those massive, shoulder-perched camcorders, that could double as a grenade launcher. Arguably, some of the most rewarding hours a kid could spend. barrettSF feels like that sometimes. Making stuff we think is funny, and giggling like we’re 12 years old again. In fact, two projects we made this year, dropabrick.org and new client DailyMVP, featured directing debuts from our own Pete Harvey and close agency friend Spencer Riviera, respectively. Think about it. We’re getting paid to make stuff with our friends. How amazing is that? And because the effort for dropabrick.org (geared at helping California’s worst drought in history) was largely our own creation, we were able to communicate a serious call-to-action message and lace it with poop jokes at the same time. Maybe we are still 12 years old at our core.

Another thing I learned this year, is that celebrating the little things reminds you why this business is fun. Here, we celebrate all of the little things, and I do mean all. Like when someone hits their nerf hoops shot in “choreball.” We have a rotating chore system here, where each day someone is on garbage and kitchen detail, unless they make a challenging hoops shot from across the room. If someone sinks their shot, and it’s not often, the place goes nuts. Work stops for twenty minutes. You’d think we won a $100 million piece of business. Those times are fun. We probably won’t be shooting “choreball” shots forever. But I know we all want the choreball spirit to survive. We want to keep the celebrations going, big and small. In fact, as I write this, I was handed a cup filled with cheap Safeway champagne to celebrate a great win we had today. No joke. Unfortunately I can’t mention the new account yet, but when the work breaks, I’m sure we’ll be loud and proud about it. And maybe this website will feature it.

Finally, I’ve learned that being part of a smaller company often feels like a big family dinner, every single day. Don’t get me wrong. Just like family, we can easily annoy each other. Specifically when someone subjects everyone to the Whitney Houston channel on Pandora. And I’m sure my co-workers have noticed that I’m not the most graceful eater, shoveling food down my gullet at lunch. I know, I know. Smaller bites. Mouth closed when chewing. I get it.

But the positives of the small agency setting far outweigh the annoyances. We get exposure and get to know each other in a way we may never get to in a larger setting. I try to impress that on our younger creative people, how fortunate they are to be working on ads for fish tacos alongside incredible creative minds like Jamie Barrett and Pete Harvey. At bigger places, it’s likely they might never get to work that closely every day with Jamie or Pete. I’d like to think that’s a pretty cool thing to offer.

One of my favorite memories this past year was a time towards the end of summer – our fantastic intern was taking us through a presentation she made about barrettSF and who we viewed as our competition. What followed was an incredibly open and honest discussion about who we are, and who we want to be. It was pretty amazing to look around the table and be able to offer my voice and opinion on decisions like that. To be honest, we don’t really know the answer yet, but we’re figuring it out. Because chances are, we’ll be that bigger agency fairly soon.

I’d write more but I gotta go. It’s my turn for choreball.


  1. brad Meyers December 10, 2014

    Go Rafi!
    Go Rafi!

  2. Jack Whalen December 12, 2014

    It sounds like a blast. I
    It sounds like a blast. I need to institute choreball at my house!

  3. Michael Schwartz December 18, 2014

    Love you Rafi
    Love you Rafi