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R/GA founder Bob Greenberg: Those who say digital agencies are bad storytellers are wrong

Bob Greenberg

Bob Greenberg

It is wrong to assume that digital agencies are not good at storytelling while the 30 second “metaphorical” TV ads are set to die out, Bob Greenberg the founder of digital agency R/GA told audiences at a conference in Sydney this morning.

Greenberg kicked off day one of the Creative Fuel conference, organised by Australia’s Association for Data-drive Marketing (ADMA), with an address in which he stepped audiences through the agency’s development since it was founded in 1977, and how it has come to its positioning as the ‘Agency for the connected age’, evolving its most recent positioning of ‘Agency for the digital age’.

“People think sometimes that digital agencies can’t do good storytelling – I think they’re wrong about that. I started seeing it when I was the president of the jury at Cannes, a lot of the work coming out of digital agencies is really strong storytelling,” he said.

Greenberg was commenting on what he sees as a “cultural shift” in the industry which is seeing brands, and agencies, surrounding consumers with products and services.

It is this “functional integration” model, the likes of which Apple, Amazon and Google use, which R/GA is adopting as its own.

“It’s where you take a consumer and surround them by products and services and we think that this is the new world that we’re in and something that R/GA is focusing its future business on,” he said.

“Apple is organised in this way; they surround a consumer with all sorts of products and services and they do it in a way that’s simple and integrated so you buy more things from a single company.”

He highlighted this through a number of campaigns R/GA has worked on for clients such as Nike.

“Nike is one of our clients and we did a similar thing for them, creating all these products and services that surround their consumer. They’re moving to really focus on Nike+, which is something we’ve connected consumers with,” he said.

“We think that 30 second spots, the metaphorical ones particularly, will be largely eliminated over time.”

“I’m never quite right on the timing,” he joked. “I said the same thing on the death of film and it took a while but it did happen. And it’s going to move forward to something we call stories and systems.”

Greenberg showed a case-study of a campaign for Nike skateboarding, to promote the Nike SB App, as an example of this.

“Our mission has moved from ‘Original moving pictures by design’, which was our message back then, to ‘Agency for the digital age’ and now that is changing to a combination of digital and physical and R/GA for the ‘Connected age,’” he continued.

“The key to it is no longer a big idea, but what we’re calling a whole idea. It’s a combination of the thinking that comes from the top down connected to a piece that’s more utilitarian that goes from the bottom up and when the story comes together we have what we consider is a whole idea.”

Beats is an example of this, Greenberg said, citing the Richard Sherman campaign around the Super Bowl, which used social media to inform the phases of the campaign.

“What we’re doing is flipping the model from having an agency that’s set up to do TV advertising and then interactive, mobile and social to be really the flip of that and being informed by mobile, internet and social to come up with new types of TV work,” Greenberg said.

Miranda Ward

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