R/GA strengthens San Francisco leadership after four new business wins
Interpublic Group's R/GA is bolstering its leadership team in San Francisco to accommodate four new pieces of business: Airbnb, Slack, car leasing company Fair and health startup January.ai.
R/GA San Francisco promoted Yael Cesarkas to executive strategy director from group strategy director and hired Cara Watson from Venables Bell & Partners as managing director of client services. The office that houses about 100 employees is also looking to fill 10 more positions in creative, client services, strategy, technology and production.
The agency declined to detail what pieces of the new businesses it won.
According to people familiar with the matter, R/GA will take on a variety of mainly digital, social and search-optimization functions for Airbnb and Fair while handling global brand marketing for Slack. Fair and Slack declined to comment; Airbnb did not respond to a request for comment and January.ai. could not be reached.
David Corns, R/GA senior vice president and managing director, says the wins, all accumulated over the last six months or so, are the result of the agency placing a flag in the sand. For R/GA San Francisco, Corns tells Ad Age that meant that the agency set out with a new vision to "be the special forces" for "new-economy" brands.
"San Francisco as a market attracts a certain kind of thinker with a maker mentality," he says, adding "we're being very particular" in talking to brands with that mindset.
Corns describes these "new-economy" brands that the agency is targeting as collaborative and entrepreneurial, similar to how he says the San Francisco office operates. Still, he says he's open to discussions with "any brands wanting to define themselves in culture and change the status quo" or which appear to have the potential "to shape the future."
He says Cesarkas and Watson are "a force to be reckoned with" and will help to accelerate the office's recent momentum further.
Cesarkas first joined R/GA in 2011, as a senior brand planner in its New York office, but left for Omnicom's DDB in 2014. She returned to R/GA San Francisco in 2017, when she was appointed group strategy director. She has since overseen strategy for R/GA clients including Google, eBay, Coty, Samsung, L'Oréal and Johnson & Johnson.
Corns recruited Watson from Venables Bell & Partners, where he first poached her to be a group brand director in January 2018. (Corns was the head of brand management and client services at Venables Bell & Partners before leaving for R/GA in December 2018.) Watson would go on to lead the Audi account at Venables Bell & Partners. Now, reunited with Corns, Watson will lead R/GA San Francisco's client services team and manage the agency's Google relationship.