R/GA Agency of the Year – Adweek

R/GA Agency of the Year – Adweek

R/GA really may well be setting itself out as the agency for the new millenium.  They do a lot of things differently — a lot smart, some less obvious.

Take the smart set.  Here is a set of quotes from this AdWeek article that are really sharp in my book and when you review them — and other notes about the agency — you see a theme:  the importance of technology, the idea that you create applications that are fixed rather then campaign-based, and that brands must commit to be successful.

R/GA has been the fastest growing agency since the 90s, has done amazing work and retains clients with big relationships.  That is by definition success in our industry.

“There’s a difference between us and someone like Crispin Porter + Bogusky. We’ve taken the direction of building brand platforms rather than viral stunts or one-off things.” [Robert Greenberg]

The key, as Greenberg has long and frequently advocated, is technology, which enables forward-thinking companies to build systems that attract and retain customers while weaving marketing and product together.  “We’re looking at customer behavior and seeing how to create something bigger than a TV spot or print ad,” says Greenberg, an architecture buff.

With a relationship dating to 2001 — a lifetime in the interactive world — Nike and R/GA are deeply enmeshed. “We have people on the ground at Nike,” says Nick Law, chief creative officer for North America at R/GA. “We have deep technical relationships with them.”

One of the crucial aspects of R/GA’s work in 2008 was to make real the promise of blurring the physical and digital worlds. This is an old quest for the digital industry and has, for the most part, come up empty over the years. Not so anymore.

“Software is a medium,” says John Mayo-Smith, R/GA chief technology officer. “Having people who understand software and a high-quality user experience is really important.”

Greenberg saw something different: He saw technology forming a new kind of creativity that relied less on the metaphors of talking animals in TV spots and more on brands connecting people. If the “traditional” notion of digital creativity is the hot viral video, Greenberg counters with an application that uses data in a new way to help people live better.

The key to apps: tech chops.

“They understand the Web, engagement on the Web and e-commerce,” says Michael Mendenhall, CMO of HP. “But they also understand advanced TV, mobile and all the other touch points that are part of the digital ecosystem.”

Entry to the executive suite also has given Greenberg an opportunity to sell his religion: that agencies must have technology at the core to help clients navigate the new world of digital media. While traditional shops might thrive in creating the hot viral video of the day, he preaches, they will fall short when it comes to building sustainable brand platforms and useful applications that blur product and marketing. That even applies to a shop like Crispin. When it comes to the core of Nike+, “they couldn’t even have the conversation,” Greenberg says.

A key area for the model Greenberg envisions is production, a discipline in which R/GA began its existence back in 1977. While most agencies rely on outside production, R/GA has kept its in-house. In 2008, revenue from the 30-person production facility grew by more than 300 percent compared to 2007. The digital studio shot over 250 video projects during the year, working for R/GA clients and other agencies and firms.

R/GA: Digital AOY 2008

The IPG shop’s mantra of utility over gimmickry proves its relevance as the stakes rise

Feb 16, 2009

-By Brian Morrissey

Stepping into R/GA’s New York headquarters, a visitor notices, amid
the general bustle of a busy shop, the beautiful, sometimes
haunting images on the walls.

They are pieces from Bob Greenberg’s personal collection of
“outsider art,” more