R/GA's Greenberg To Cannes' Agency Attendees: Disrupt Thyself

In a world of constant technological disruption, it is better to disrupt your own business model before the marketplace disrupts it for you. That was the advice the team from Interpublic’s R/GA unit gave to other agencies attending the Festival of Creativity in Cannes, France, Wednesday morning. 

“Self-disruption would become a driving force of R/GA. We've reinvented ourselves so many times that I can confidently say, as a company, we’ve never been disrupted,” agency founder Bob Greenberg said. 

Noting that disruption isn’t always easy or painless, Greenberg said it is necessary to stay relevant. He and his senior team shared the latest iteration of R/GA’s business model to inspire others who want to adopt or adapt it. 

“There’s almost a playbook that has emerged. That defines all of them,” R/GA Chief Strategy Officer Barry Wacksman said, referring to the “disruptive innovators” that establishment brands must contend with. 

The key components of the disruptor’s playbook, he said, including:

  • A brand purpose that’s inspiring and motivates the consumer.

  • Creating new technology habits using innovation that consumers adopt and deliver on that brand promise.

  • Using their products to connect and create new services that form an “ecosystem.”

  • Creating technology habits that live in interfaces and experiences through design that is at the heart of everything they do.

  • Use data to transform customer experiences. Move away from the idea of consumers to users and, ultimately, to “membership.”

  • Live in culture. 

Wacksman said the disruptor playbook is true of giant behemoths, such as Google, Amazon and Apple, as well as midsize companies, like Uber, Airbnb and Netflix ,and even relatively smaller ones ,like Tesla, Net A Porter, Warby Parker and Dollar Shave Club. 

To compete in that kind of world, Wacksman offered a snapshot of R/GA’s own “six piece” model:

  • Ventures

  • Consulting

  • Agency

  • Intellectual Property

  • Connected Spaces

  • Studios 

He also provided a detailed case study of the first one, R/GA Ventures, which was started by the agency in 2013 to “disrupt the VC industry.”

Even though it is big -- investing $20 billion in startups annually -- he said it has a high 19 out of 20 failure rate.

The No. 1 reason conventional VC-based startups fail isn’t because they have a lack of good ideas, he notes, but because they often don’t have the budgets and resources to execute.

Instead of simply investing financial capital, he said R/GA Ventures also provides “creative capital,” as well as “access to client relationships.” Utilizing an accelerator approach has helped more than 73 startups to date and the agency has equity stakes in all of them.

“We want to see our entire industry represented at Cannes grow and thrive,” Greenberg concluded at the end of his team’s presentation. “To do so, it’s imperative that we stay ahead of the disruptive forces. It’s the only way our industry will remain relevant.”

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