Cathy Monetti

A writer by trade, Cathy founded the firm that is now Riggs Partners in 1987 and has served as the firm’s lead creative strategist since that time. She is a voracious student of all things Next.
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posted by Cathy Monetti Oct 19,2015 @ 10:12AM

CreateAthon, Flood Relief and Good Business

This date marks 28 years since the Monday morning I first opened the proverbial doors of C.C.Riggs, the advertising studio that has become today's Riggs Partners. It is a truth that astounds me even as I look back across the decades to the girl I was then: an optimistic, energetic, enthusiastic copywriter who wanted nothing more than to do great work for clients I admired and whose companies I believed in. What a blessing it is to be young and eager, that is the thought that occurs to me now, thousands of projects, hundreds of clients and a wealth of talented employees and co-workers later.


Something else occurs to me as well. It's the honor of doing the work itself, the trust placed squarely in your hands by those you serve in doing it. This week it will be our honor to serve eight nonprofits as we joyfully take the reins in solving their marketing and communications challenges during our 18th pro bono bonanza, CreateAthon. We'll work around the clock (AKA without sleep) from Thursday at 8am until the last presentation Friday morning. It is intense, terrifying, and exhausting to take on such a challenge and I expect these emotions will be doubly true this year as our hometown of Columbia, South Carolina marches on through the early days of recovery following last week's devastating, historic flood. Nevertheless we asked each other this question.

Could we do more?

The answer is yes. So for the first time ever, RP CreateAthon volunteers are seeking pledge donations for each of the 24 hours we’re working with 100 percent going directly to flood relief via the Central Carolina Community Foundation Flood Relief Fund. Directions and a link for donating are below.

It's a small thing, we know. But as evidenced by CreateAthon--and by the evolution of a small creative studio founded in 1989--little ideas often turn into gigantic blessings that impact the world in surprising ways.

Thanks for being part of it. Your sponsorship, or even a simple share of this post on your networks, will help so much.

CreateAthon 18, here we come!




posted by Cathy Monetti Apr 02,2015 @ 04:12AM

Five Lessons of Great Leaders

I've spent a lot of time lately thinking about leadership. It's not something that's on my mind, typically; there's entirely too much work to be done to sit around dissecting and diagramming such a thing. But when I was invited to speak to a group of government leaders about how to be an inspired leader in difficult times--I knew I had some soul searching to do.

What on earth do I have to say on this topic? It was a valid question. Not so long ago (ha) I was a young entrepreneur doing the best I could to balance the demands of a growing business with the responsibilities of being a single mother. As a result little Eliza spent many weekends and holidays with me at the office. (It did not bring her joy.) Early one Saturday I parked her at the receptionist's desk where she prayed the phone would ring and she would get to answer it: "C.C.Rigg’s! This is Eliza! How may I help you?"

It never happened. So on this day I loaded her up with paper and pencils and colored markers and tape and gave her all sorts of instructions about things she might do. Then I went to my office and commenced to cleaning out files.

Sensing her dissatisfaction, I picked up the phone, buzzed the reception desk, and in my most professional voice said into the intercom, "Eliza, this is Miss Cathy. Would you please go to the refrigerator and get a Diet Coke, put it in a koozie and bring it to me?" Diet Coke delivered, my tiny receptionist returned to her desk and within 15 seconds my telephone intercom buzzed.

"Cathy," said this little five-year-old voice. "Would you please go to the refrigerator and get a Sprite, put it in a koozie and bring it to me?"

"Honey," I said, now in my Mom voice. "I'm the boss and you're the worker. That means you do things for me."

"Humph," she said, hanging up the receiver.

When the day was done we drove straight to her favorite restaurant where we parked catacorner in the Sonic drive-in and she made the big move to sit in the front seat, with me. "Let's play TEENAGERS!" she said. And so I turned to her and asked in my best teenager voice, "So Eliza, what have you been up to?"

"I've just been working at the hospital," she said.

"The hospital!" I said, surprised. "When did you start working at the hospital? The last time we talked you were working at an advertising agency!"

"I was," she said. "But there was this lady there, and all she did was boss me around, so I quit."


Thankfully, I spent the next 25 years in the company of some pretty remarkable leaders, many of whom were my clients. I do my best to pay attention, to go beneath the surface of things, and so as I thought through it, I realized they all have some things in common. Following is a greatly abbreviated overview.



Have you seen Simon Sinek’s TED talk HOW GREAT LEADERS INSPIRE ACTION? “People don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it,” he says of great brands and companies. I believe Sinek is onto something important and revolutionary. I know it’s true in marketing and branding. But I believe it’s also true when it comes to us as individuals, as human beings, as leaders.

Do you know your WHY? Do you know what drives you? Do you know what you value? Do you know what you believe?


They inspire rather than command—they tell us what they believe, not what should be done.


Soul to soul. Heart to heart. THE REAL ME SEES THE REAL YOU. This matters because as human beings, what we want most is to be seen, heard and validated.


They identify the right problems. Then they get to the why.


They create and foster an environment in which people feel safe—not only with regard to "management," but also co-workers. They do this by knowing their convictions (see #1 and #2 above) and standing for them, on behalf of the people they lead.


There is much more to say about each, including wonderful examples from people I greatly respect. I think I'll spend some time in this space doing just that. But for now, I'd love to hear your perspective. Comment or send an email to I'd love to hear from you.

posted by Cathy Monetti Feb 13,2015 @ 05:55AM

A Vibrant Spirit

I was making my way through the rows of booksellers at last year’s South Carolina Book Festival when I saw a familiar face at a booth just to my right. The smile was unequivocally Marvin Chernoff—broad, joyful, genuine—and I walked closer to discover he was promoting a recently released book he’d written about the ad industry. I bought a copy and told him I’d be honored if he would sign it.

I don’t know that we’ve officially ever met, I said as he wrote. But I’d like to tell you something. Not only are you responsible for the development of an entire creative class in Columbia—but every person I know who ever worked for you continues to hold you in the highest regard. Every single one. I aspire to that. And I thank you.

He smiled again, and then said something funny and self-deprecating. I walked away, my new book in hand, and thought how deeply I regret never knowing him well, how I wish I’d had the opportunity—like so many talented ad folks who have done and continue to do great work—how I wish I’d had the opportunity to learn from this trailblazer, a man fearless and committed. Marvin Chernoff served this community, the agency he founded, and every person who ever had the honor of working with him with great aplomb. How the world will miss his vision and passion. But how lucky we are his indomitable spirit will live on in the many, many lives he shaped.

posted by Cathy Monetti Jul 30,2014 @ 11:31AM

How One Brand Ignited A Spanish Revolution

I have just returned from a life list vacation. Four days in Barcelona, four days in Madrid, four days in Valencia. I was overwhelmed with the immersion in history a trip like that provides; it's simply impossible to wrap your head around tour-guide comments like during the Roman Empire and in the 8th century, after the Moor conquest. And yet history was there, in crumbling city walls and decaying columns and guarding gargoyles of every attitude and style. It was there—not a homework paragraph in a World History book, but carved in stones you could reach out and touch, rubbing your hands along the ancient surfaces.


intheoldcity one of a thousand streets in the ancient city of Barcelona


There is this aged history you see and feel and know in all three of the cities we visited. What I found surprising—and, quite frankly jarring—is the contrast between this history and a distinctly 20th century art form wildly prolific there.




Graffiti. Graffiti is everywhere. Graffiti is so profuse in these cities and along the rails as you travel by train it overwhelms the senses and seems to somehow leave Spain's remarkable beauty in shadow.


When I first arrived in Barcelona, I made my way through the city thinking: Obviously the Spanish embrace graffiti as art. What a great example of the wonderful, easy-going European attitude! But it didn't take long until a growing irritation began to color my thoughts.

How on earth did they let it go this far?





Here's what I have learned.

  • In Spain, graffiti is illegal and considered vandalism.
  • The graffiti movement is a counter-cultural revolution that began in the first years of Spain's transition from a dictatorship to a democracy during the early 80s. According to Skate and Urban Street Culture Barcelona, "Young people began to write their names everywhere, on walls in the street, in the metro, wherever. The materials they used were from a view of nowadays rather rudimentary. Among them were 'Edding' felt-tips, shoe polishes and paint sprays. Also they made their own utensils, adapting for example pens with a wider tip using gasoline burners to create this effect or they prepared the nozzles of the sprays to achieve a wider marking style. During this time it was more common to steal the equipment from big warehouses, car shops or stationers. Today there are still some artists remaining that practice this kind of style."
  • "The art form changed" in 1994 when a new type of paint spray can was developed specifically for graffiti writers and introduced by a company called Montana Colors.

According to the Montana Colors website:

In the early '90s, graffiti was considered, by all of the American and European spray paint companies, to merely be an act of vandalism. It was of no interest to any of the companies, because it wasn't yet considered to be profitable. At that time, the discovery of this passionate cultural revolution was what propelled the founders of Montana Colors to lay the groundwork for the creation of the first spray paint made especially for graffiti and, in that way, fill that hole in the market.

Today, Montana Colors is a major brand. Again from the website:

All brands have a path and a record in history, as well as an appellation of origin which guarantees its authenticity. Ours began 18 years ago in Barcelona, at a time when, after the launch of our first spray product, the word spread across Europe, and writers and artists from France, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy began to arrive to fill their car trunks with Montana and bring it back to their countries. From that moment up until now, the Montana Colors brand has expanded to a presence in more than 30 countries in the world and to 15 official points of sale: Montana Shop & Gallery, in cities such as Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia, Seville, Montpellier, Brussels, Amsterdam, Nottingham, Lisbon, Montreal, Tokyo, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, and San Paulo.

The root of the proliferation of graffiti in these ancient Spanish cities comes down to two things: (1) personal statements of rebellion and independence following a dictatorship, and (2) the introduction of a product that "filled a hole in the market."

And if that's not a statement about the cultural power of branding, I don't know what is.

posted by Cathy Monetti Mar 07,2014 @ 07:31AM

Simply Brilliant: theSkimm

With so much information flying around, it pays to communicate clearly and simply—whatever your forum. For my money, nobody does it better than theSkimm.

Founded by NBC staffers Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg, theSkimm is a daily e-digest of the world's most important news stories, offered in bite-size, easy-to-digest chunks. The subscription base is largely "busy women who want to keep up on current events and cocktail party conversation but who are short on time," although I suspect a broad male readership exists.

Here is how theSkimm covered the situation in Ukraine today:

Sign up for theSkimm here. Or at a minimum, let theSkimm's straightforward writing style inspire your next piece of communication.

Your customers will thank you.




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