Wed, 09 Nov 2022 06:25:59 GMT
R/GA started life on the leading edge of technology and culture. Specifically, in the world of visual effects.
“The room next door is called Superman, and upstairs we have one called Ghostbusters.”
So said Victoria Curro, managing director of R/GA Sydney, as she showed me around their newly opened office space.
“Those are some of the films that we worked on,” she explained, casually mentioning that the agency is “the only one in the world that has an Oscar.”
Why does this matter?
“We were a film company for many years. And you don't create films in isolation, everyone has to play their part… and collaboration, I think, is one of the big current trends. I’m not sure to what degree it’s been created or rather accelerated by COVID. But it's definitely something that’s here to stay.”
R/GA’s new office space (as well as their recent work) reflects this spirit of collaboration directly. Victoria described how R/GA had pioneered the connected office model in New York during the mid 00s. This new setting, then, with its rising desks, its communal spaces, and its “snug” couches, was in keeping with those same ideas. It was designed to foster, in Victoria’s words, “Things like social opportunities, the chance to have lunches with people - not just their pet dogs - all those serendipitous 'bumping into one another moments.”
But the collaboration Victoria so values is not limited to existing within the agency. It extends beyond R/GA’s walls, as part of the group’s strategy in targeting that most elusive and desirable of online audiences; generation Z.
“They are more politically active than the generations that have come before them, begins Victoria. “My daughter's 14 and, and she is definitely more politically aware than I was as a teenager. Overall, Gen Z don't want to be messaged to; they can see through that, and will call BS. They want to co-create with you, they want to be in on it. As an agency, we need to be set up for that too. We have people really connected into culture, but also, beyond that, we are willing to bring Gen Z into that development process.”
How does one co-create with Gen Z? And how does one remain true to their political and social values?
For R/GA, the key is found in the company’s central philosophy: building a more human future.
“When we first talked about that mission, as a leader, I said, ‘Oh, my God, how do I do that?’
That's a grand statement. It took a while for me to really believe it.”
But believe it Victoria, in time, did, and she’s developed an incisive vision for how it fits within R/GA’s business structure.
“I believe in infusing it into the work we do. It’s in the clients we choose to work with, it's in the initiatives we choose to back, and it’s in knocking back clients as well that we don't think sit with our values.”
As proof of this concept, and as proof of the virtue of collaboration, Victoria points to We Are Warriors, a first-of-its-kind platform created to celebrate Blak excellence, created in partnership with Yuin Nation Hip Hop Artist Nooky.
“In May 2020 George Floyd was murdered in the States. We’re an American company, and it affected R/GA quite powerfully.”
That ethos flowed to R/GA’s offices across the world, and Ben Miles, ECD of brand design & consulting, was determined to “make a difference” in Australia as well.
“What we helped Nooki create is an indigenous youth mentorship program, so that we could tell the stories of successful indigenous role models to indigenous youth. What gets played out in the media, more often than not, aren’t positive stories about indigenous Australians and these stories limit how young people from indigenous backgrounds can imagine their futures… so, We Are Warriors is a platform to counter that narrative, and to tell positive stories about indigenous people doing amazing things.”
Crucially, the project was a collaborative one, as well as being values-led.
“We didn't set out to create something for indigenous youth on our own,” Victoria says. “We brought indigenous youth into the creation process to say, well, what is actually going to be meaningful for you? What would you actually want?”
The final step to ensure its relevance to Gen Z is in continuing R/GA’s tradition of being at the forefront of technology and culture: it is, unsurprisingly, highly digital.
“Digital is at the heart of everything we do,” says Victoria. “We don’t have a digital department, we don’t have a digital team; it’s just everywhere… We build brands digitally-first nowadays, and what we do is to try to find the edge of possibilities, in that realm, for each and every one of our clients.”
To that end, R/GA is focusing increasingly on “phygital”, that mixture of physical and digital, which Victoria jokingly describes as “the world’s worst marketing term”. By way of explanation, she cites a recent in-store campaign where Snap’s AR technology allowed Nike customers to view digital “models” in store - models which, pointedly, “are actually based on how people actually look.”
Again, then, one sees R/GA’s human-centric approach in its campaigns.
Victoria also detailed how the agency has worked to help create a digital museum of Chinese-Australian history, and how the “human future” approach extends also to how the team themselves are treated.
“It's been a tough time to be in business, it's been a tough time to just be a human. And we've been really conscious about how we support our staff and support our teams. Things like flexibility aren’t even a conversation. Our approach is called ‘design your day’, for instance, I might come into the office in the afternoon, but work from home in the morning. We also have something called ‘health hour’, which is an hour a week to do whatever you want to do to suit you. We have a wellness budget, which is $750 per year to spend on whatever you want that makes you feel better. One person in my team takes herself horse riding every week, on a Tuesday morning.”
R/GA has a new office space, and it looks toward the future. It looks towards the digital, towards gen Z, towards collaboration, and towards the human.
But for this agency, with its long history in such a world, that future is something of an old story. And it’s one they’re not yet done telling.