Walking around R/GA's New York City office you'll notice a habit among employees: they all routinely look at their wrists. They're not checking the time, but consulting their Nike+ Fuelbands to see if they're on track to meet their daily "Fuel" goal -- a metric the agency created to help Nike+ users measure their level of activity.
In other words, staffers literally wear their work on their sleeves.
The Nike+ Fuelband has more successfully merged mobile and social brand engagement than any other consumer electronic device, save for smartphones and tablets. Pre-orders sold out within minutes and customers lined up around the block at Niketown in New York for the device's retail release. And for a notoriously private company, Nike has bestowed upon R/GA an unprecedented level of credit for the success of Fuelband.
Stefan Olander, VP-digital sport at Nike, and Bob Greenberg, R/GA chairman-CEO, shared the stage at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity to talk about transforming a running brand into a functional and integrated ecosystem. (And in a sign that the definition of advertising has expanded, the device won the Titanium Grand Prix and Cyber Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.)
But it's not all about Nike. R/GA last year added more than 10 clients and posted double-digit revenue growth. Its U.S. mobile practice alone generated $40 million in revenue and the media and connections group doubled in head count and projects and increased revenue by 25%. The gains are more impressive when considered it in 2011 lost one of one of its biggest accounts, Walmart.
For Microsoft's Windows 8 launch in October, R/GA orchestrated a three-day takeover of Times Square with synchronized ads running on 39 digital billboards. The agency also created a social-response lab, with agency employees now monitoring social feeds and responding to conversation in real time for clients Capital One, Nike and A&E, for whom it turned the season two premiere of "Duck Dynasty" into a Twitter trending topic.
Some of the R/GA's best work was for brands that digital agencies don't typically work on, such as McCormick, the spices brand, for which it created a digital dinner-party-planning tool on Facebook. More recently, it has been named digital AOR for JC Penney, a brand in the midst of a difficult reinvention.
R/GA has always been conscious of becoming big without becoming bad. To ensure its growth doesn't come at the expense of quality work, the agency overhauls its entire strategy every nine years, Mr. Greenberg said. For 2013, he's emphasizing R/GA's consultancy capabilities and he's already poached analysts from Forrester, Accenture and Interbrand to grow that part of the business.
Last year it opened its fourth U.S. office in Austin, Texas, which will serve as a hub for mobile and social work with Richard Ting, promoted to global exc creative director of mobile and social platforms, overseeing the outpost. It also opened in Sydney, Australia, at the start of 2013, which Mr. Greenberg, a numerology devotee, is convinced will be a year of great change.