Disrupting the disruptors: A marketer’s survival guide for the connected age

Innovative agencies are helping brands see digital advertising in a new light.
Innovative agencies are helping brands see digital advertising in a new light.
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You hear it all the time: Television advertising is on the decline. Audiences have become fragmented. The demise of traditional media is under way.

Advertising has always depended on the power of traditional media to unite like-minded consumers around television, radio, or print. But the invention of the internet has unlocked a yet-to-be-determined medium for marketers, one with endless opportunities for reaching and engaging consumers.

“Digital moved advertising away from these singular media channels to these multifaceted contexts online,” says Barry Wacksman, EVP, Global Chief Strategy Officer, R/GA. “Then at the same time, digital started to deconstruct the entire world. Netflix came along and destroyed broadcast television. Airbnb came along and disrupted hotels. Uber comes along and disrupts transportation. Amazon is disrupting everybody!”

Today, most businesses are scrambling to remain relevant and survive new competition from every direction.

But very few companies are equipped to pivot. They remain dependent on dwindling broadcast dollars that, according to Nick Law, Vice Chairman, Global Chief Creative Officer, R/GA, indicates a shrinking pie to fight over. “Agencies will only be inoculated for a certain amount of time,” he says.


At its founding in 1977, the core of R/GA’s business model was not marketing but motion graphics for film. “Since our earliest days… we have been inventing the tools and technology to push industries forward,” Bob Greenberg, Founder, Chairman & CEO, R/GA, wrote on Medium.com.

Today, R/GA is a full-service agency offering an ecosystem of capabilities built to address changing landscapes across industries. From communications campaigns like Samsung’s S8 “Unbox Your Phone” launch, to prototyping innovative tech solutions such as Fossil Q, brands can enter an engagement with R/GA through one service and then potentially benefit from a host of additional offerings, including product and experience design, prototyping, innovation, branding, workplace strategy, and business consulting. The company’s Ventures Studio even offers clients a pipeline to innovative startups—all under one roof.

“All of the things that we do are connected in a way that makes the whole bigger than each part,” Law says. “We connect our accelerator with creativity, for instance, and that’s very valuable capital,” he says. “Our role is to connect what the brand wants to say with what the audience wants to say. Our Workplace Strategy practice—which is technology built into the architecture, not just applied afterward—is something most architects don’t do.”

Follow Fossil, Walmart, Verizon, and Nike to see how R/GA’s integrated model helps organizations avoid disruption through a multitude of service touch points.

Today, R/GA’s Venture Studio is in its eighth program, with a class of marketing tech startups that receive guidance and feedback from Snap Inc., the agency’s partner for the remainder of the accelerator.

To learn more about R/GA Consulting, listen to this FutureVision Conversation podcast episode:


With seamless, invisible intelligence continuing to infiltrate consumers’ day-to-day lives, brands will increasingly need to adapt so that they can turn insights and data into action, make new products and services and launch them at scale, and test and learn along the way. At Google Brand Studio, for instance, agencies collaborate side by side with the brand.

“Traditional agency models tend to be quite thick and relatively inflexible,” says Allegra Aufderhaar, Managing Director of Google Brand Studio. “For much of the work we do, we need a different model that allows us to have a much more seamless partnership with agencies on a couple of levels: one that allows our agencies to become deeply expert in not only our products, our strategic propositions, but also in how we work, the actual operating mechanics.”

“For us, one of the roles that our most important agency partners play is actually being the connective tissue between various constituencies within Google,” Aufderhaar continues. “That’s something that’s really important to getting to a successful launch and getting to successful work: making sure that there’s somebody who is keeping an eye on all of the various plates that are spinning in various places and bringing it all together for a more cohesive end product.”

For Dogus Marketing Services, a Turkey-based data-driven company and client of R/GA Istanbul, that collaborative structure between client and agency partners, from start to finish, is invaluable. “We work very well with agencies that can use test-scale methodology in today’s digital world,” Aldan says. “Nowadays, one-size-fits-all is a very challenging approach.”

As brands seek to adapt—or pivot—in their own industries, the vast agency world will soon need to find new footing to avoid obsolescence. For now, R/GA is focused on the future and how to stay far ahead of the increasingly complex competition.

Says Nick Law, Global Chief Creative Officer, R/GA: “We’ve made very specific choices to disrupt the disruptors.”

To learn more about the latest disruptive trends in adland, visit R/GA FutureVision.

Rebecca Bezzina is VP and Managing Director of R/GA Sydney.

Sammy Hazui is Managing Director of R/GA Tokyo.

Matt Lodder is EVP and Managing Director of R/GA EMEA Region.

This article was produced by R/GA and not by the Quartz editorial staff.