R/GA is moving into "the traditional branding business" to compete with the likes of Interbrand and Landor, and seems intent on doing what branding agencies do:
This is a far cry from what the agency has done in the digital space. They're innovators who’re adept at getting big-name brands to spend money on neat, integrated campaigns. R/GA saw early on that the online opportunity wasn't to present information to consumers, but rather engage with them via interactive programs.
While most of the mainstream agencies were putting together gloriously beautiful and otherwise pointless web sites to complement their money-making ad buys, R/GA flipped the model on its head, and positioned digital as the lead. I've been a fan of Bob Greenberg, its scragily-haired chairman and smart, straight-talking visionary, for years.
So this move into traditional branding has me flummoxed. It's just so, so, traditional.
I would have expected them to blow it up instead.
In an industry publication, a company creative guru describes R/GA's approach to branding with all of the usual examples, citing the importance of shapes, colors, and the integration of various media into something he called "all encompassing systems that convey information by motion."
What was particularly telling to me was when he described a car shopper's "first experience with the brand" as happening after an Internet search.
Of course, he knows better, as the experience of search itself -- what prompts it, what third-party information is available, what the consumer is looking for, or hoping to do, at that very moment -- is a branding experience.
Decisions are being influenced and made ever-further away from the media that companies can control. So it matters far less what a company creates as a destination page for that, or any other consumer experience, when it’s highly unlikely that the consumer is searching for it from them.
I suspect what R/GA is searching for is far more important: namely, those giant budgets that big name companies still insist on wasting on useless, feel-good branding.
It's a sweet market, with no accountability to anyone other than fellow gurus and schmoozable clients. Many kids have been put through college on the fees earned for accomplishing far less results in the real world...if any at all.
There was another quote in the trade pub piece that I thought was just marvelous: when asked how he felt about R/GA's aspirations, a Landor exec said "At a gathering of branding firms, if you ask who is an expert, everyone's hand goes up, including the catering company."
And now the digital marketing guys raise their hands, too.