Agency A-List 2016

R/GA London is Runner-Up for 2016 International Agency of the Year

Thanks to Innovation for Beats by Dre, Nike and Google, Plus 35% Revenue Growth

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Matt Lodder and James Temple
Matt Lodder and James Temple Credit: Rebecca Rumble

R/GA London built on its success in linking Beats by Dre to World Cup soccer and Wimbledon tennis by adding a new sport unlikely for a U.S. brand: rugby. The Rugby World Cup in London offered the ideal opportunity to showcase celebrity athletes in yet another sport enjoying Beats by Dre in the heat of a tournament watched by millions.

"The Game Starts Here" focused on national pride and rugby stars' preparation for the big moment, including powerful sequences such as the New Zealand team's "Haka" pre-game war dance, featuring an original haka written for Beats.

It was the brand's most-watched sports campaign to date, with more than 76 million YouTube views, creating 454,000 new fans on social media. Traffic to the e-commerce site was up 64% in the relevant countries, and e-commerce sales were up 25% during the tournament. Earlier in the year, R/GA London, which has creative leadership on the Beats by Dre account, scored with a Wimbledon campaign featuring Serena Williams and picked up a gold Cannes Lions for its World Cup soccer campaign "The Game Before the Game."

R/GA London started out ten years ago as an uninvited tenant in the offices of Interpublic Group of Cos. sibling agency, Lowe London. "We were the filthy digital cousin. How times have changed," said James Temple, SVP, managing director and executive creative director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The pace of change accelerated last year. R/GA London's 2015 revenue soared by 35% to $43 million in the sixth consecutive year of double-digit growth. Staffing kept pace, up 34% to 300 employees.

A further boost came from 11 new clients – including McDonald's, Dyson, Nike Football Europe, plus five Unilever businesses: Signal toothpaste and skincare brands Simple, St Ives, Citra and Dawn -- without a single loss.

The agency persistently reinvents itself by recruiting for new skills and putting them together in lean, tight, collaborative teams. Matt Lodder, SVP and managing director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said, "Two years ago, clients came to us wanting an app or a website. Now they have a less specific brief – they want to know what we can do to help them futureproof their business."

As a U.S. agency in the U.K., R/GA London's success story is rare. So how have they done it? "Tenacity" is Mr. Temple's response. "And ambition. It would have been so easy to get battered along the way, but we have a great network to call on for help."

Mr. Lodder added, "We are not cutting the cord, but we do want clients to buy into R/GA London. The framework and the way we engage with clients is the same, but there's a roguery about this place. We are smaller, leaner and more nimble, so we can take a few more risks."

In 2015, R/GA London became the official hub for the Europe, Middle East and Africa region, with responsibility for offices in Stockholm and Bucharest, as well as helping to set up an Istanbul agency, which opened in October on the back of R/GA London's successful partnership with Turkey's telecommunications brand Turkcell.

Led by Mr. Temple and Mr. Lodder, R/GA London spent 2015 in a tireless quest for innovation.

Creative work included a giant, location-based display on London's Old Street Roundabout to reconnect people with their neighborhood for Google Maps; refreshing the McDonald's Happy Meal by creating an educational platform called Happy Studio in 42 European countries; and developing Nike's first Shazamable print ad, as well as a global TV spot for Beats by Dre.

For Turkcell, the agency launched a cloud service that stores data for 37 million customers, redesigned a loyalty program for premium customers, and created the Healthmetre app, which helps diabetics change their lifestyle by sharing photos of meals as a way to get support from both friends and medical professionals.

"Our ambition isn't to be the 'best' agency," Mr. Lodder said. "It's to be the most relevant to clients. And the only way is to be the best collaborators on the planet -- to create the best campaign script, and the best Java script."

R/GA London also launched the network's first European Accelerator program, working in Germany with the world's fourth largest retailer, Metro, to drive innovation in the hospitality industry. From 700 start-ups in 20 countries, eleven were chosen to receive a $130,000 investment and spend three months working in Berlin.

For 2016, further European expansion is on the cards, with Madrid, Barcelona, Paris and Amsterdam all possible venues for new offices. This summer the agency will move from its slightly drab north London office into super-connected new premises in trendier east London.

There is no sense of pausing for breath after the success of 2015. Mr. Temple said, "There's no time for a cigar and a whisky. You have to keep evolving. You can't get complacent for a second."