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The Future Of Ad Agencies Might Not Be Advertising At All

R/GA chairman and CEO Bob Greenberg on how constantly re-evaluating has helped his company—which started in filmmaking—stay ahead of industry disruption.

The Future Of Ad Agencies Might Not Be Advertising At All
[Photo: Jeff Beer]

To call R/GA an ad agency is a bit misleading. Sure, it’s created award-winning ad work for brands like Nike, Beats and Samsung, but over the years the company has also branched out to include a venture practice, business consultancy, design and more. In an industry that’s quickly and constantly changing thanks to technological innovation and consumer behavior, R/GA chairman and CEO Bob Greenberg sees self-disruption as a key business operating principle, one that has served the company well in the past and will ensure its survival in the future.

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Speaking at the  Fast Company Innovation Festival, Greenberg outlined how this strategy has always been a part of the company. Founded in 1977 as a computer-assisted filmmaking company, R/GA has evolved beyond motion graphics and a digital studio, into an interactive agency, and now a consulting and ventures practice, all while creating award-winning work for brands around the world.

[Photo: Jeff Beer]
“Disrupting the agency business is something we feel pretty confident in. We’re helping clients grow, and we do it through connected communication and connected design, but we always have to explain that we’re very interested in storytelling,” said Greenberg. “It shouldn’t be because we’re talking about digital things, that we’re not interested in storytelling. I think we’re very evenly balanced throughout our agency capabilities around the world with systematic designers and storytellers.”

The company works well outside the traditional ad agency purview—it has an ongoing tech venture program partnership with the L.A. Dodgers, for instance–while still pushing boundaries in marketing work with projects like a Twitter series for Converse starring Miley Cyrus and Game of Thrones‘ Maisie Williams. For Greenberg, the key is to never view the company as a finished product.


Related: What Don Draper Taught This Ad Agency Not To Do


“At best, we like to think of ourselves as an 80% company because we feel that if you’re 100% you’d be like the advertising business,” he said. “That’s what makes the advertising business fall into the deconstruction situation that’s been happening now for a couple of years. There’s nothing new, particularly, in outbound advertising, marketing communications that needs to be developed. It’s been 50 or 60 years, and they’ve done a wonderful job, but we’re looking for things that we’re 40% into or 50% into. We’re very far from our 80%, and we like to say we’re always a work in progress.”

About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.

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