Bob Greenberg, chairman and CEO, R/GA, made his appearance for the fourteenth time on the stage at Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Joining him were Nick Law, global CCO and vice chairman, Barry Wacksman, chief strategy officer and Saneel Radia, SVP - consulting.
Setting the tone for the session, Greenberg said, "There have been plenty of changes in society since. Disruption is sort of a meaningless word, but I can assure you it's not. We were doing great work on advertising like films etc., and then came the internet. It was time for us to change our methods and follow. It was difficult at first and all our staff didn't join us too."
Implying that the agency went past that phase successfully, he added, "We have repeatedly re-though our world. We changed our model at the time we were most successful. When one is on top, it's the right time to change."
Help clients innovate
Wicksman then explained how the agency is looking to help clients innovate. He said, "Almost all of our clients are Fortune 500 companies who are battling it out for a three to four per cent share. Then, there's another completely disruptive company that does something completely different and runs away with the share."
Wicksman explained the above with an example of the auto industry. "While sales have been falling for companies, Toyota and Nissan have peaked. And then, there's a company (Tesla) that almost doesn't even advertise and yet manages to sell 2,76,000 units in 36 hours and 4,00,000 in a month. He (Elon Musk) isn't even in the car industry and yet he manages that. We have to help clients innovate in this way."
"We have seen media habits change from 'Reading, listening, watching moving to the technology habit. Data is the currency of the smart connected age. Tech habits yield data. Companies that have used data well have emerged successful."
The CSO backed that by listing the top global companies in 2001 - GE, Microsoft, Exxon and Citi. He compared these to the top companies of 2017; Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook.
He then listed the modern playbook for the disruptive marketer:
Start with a brand purpose that can motivate the consumer
Create value with innovation
Connect everything in an ecosystem
Design an interface
Use data to drive membership
Live in culture - brands need to behave
Wicksman futher explained R/GA's latest model which revolves around ventures, consulting, agency, IP, connected workspaces and studios.
He said, "We started this remodelling in 2013. We wanted to help clients innovate. VCs invest USD 80 billion yearly on funding businesses but 19 out of 20 start-ups don't make it because of execution of ideas. So we solved this by adding creative capital (to financial capital) and clients who could help shape products by investing or acquiring."
Disrupting the consulting business
Radia was the next member from the agency to take to the stage. He spoke about how the agency is looking to disrupt the consulting business. He said, "Our focus is helping the C-suite innovate. We offer business transformation, brand consulting, technology consulting and organisational design. Innovation is the introduction of the relevant and new. "
He demonstrated how the agency is looking to innovate with an example from Brazil. He explained, "We built a bank from ground-up for digital natives. We rolled out a different business model. 71 per cent of millenials prefer going to the dentist over a bank."
Disrupting the agency business
Nick Law completed the session by explaining how R/Ga is looking to disrupt the agency business.
He said, "We help our clients grow. We do it by helping brands capitalise on disruptive technologies and emerging behaviours. We do connected communication (advertising) and connected design (products and services). We create experiences that put people first and put stories and systems together. When we tell stories, we are telling what the client wants to say, while systems is what people want to do. So, we want to combine them and look create behaviours. If you want people to share, you tell a story that the audience wants to tell (others). You then deliver it in a world that's moving fast."
An example of such kind of work was what the agency did during the NFL pro-bowl.