What's the big idea? R/GA boss Bob Greenberg doesn't have one, says traditional ads dead

By (incomplete) | 28 July 2014

The 'big advertising idea' is going the way of the 30 second spot. It will soon be all but "eliminated" reckons R/GA founder, CEO and chairman Bob Greenberg.

Sharing his predictions for the future of advertising, Greenberg – on his first ever visit to Australia – told delegates at the ADMA Creative Fuel conference to forget the 'big idea' and instead focus on the 'whole idea'.

The traditional spot is living on borrowed time and will be usurped by longer-form demos that help us in our connected world, said Greenberg.

“Thirty-second spots will be eliminated over time,” he said. “I've talked about it before, and I'm never quite right about timing, but it will happen. It will move towards more stories and systems."

However, Greenberg softened his rhetoric slightly when questioned by a delegate if he really saw traditional TV advertising being completely killed off.

“I don't think 30-second spots are going to go away [completely]," he admitted. "But I do think there will be a move towards versions of them that are around descriptions and demonstrations of products,” he admitted

R/GA has a history of reinventing itself most recently repositioning itself beyond digital at the end of 2013.

Greenberg set up the agency with his brother Richard in 1977 as a motion graphics company. After working on graphics for films including Superman and Ghost Busters, R/GA moved to focus on bringing computer graphics and the film industry under one roof. Then, from 1995, R/GA focused on the emergence of the internet, and from 2004 to 2013 its motto was 'the agency for the digital age'.

Now R/GA has refocused its attention on storytelling and what Greenberg calls “functional integration” for the "connected age". That might sound vague, but locally seems to be gaining traction. R/GA recently picked up a slice of Telstra (within the always on performance hub run in conjunction with OMD) and a chunk of business from ANZ.

So what does it mean? “It's where we take the consumer and surround them with products and services,” explained Greenberg, citing Apple and Google's approach as the model to follow. “We think this is the future for the world we are in.”

“We want to be R/GA for the connected age,” he said. “We have started to work with Volvo on the connected car, and with Nike on the connected athlete, and in New York we are working on a geographical area that will be a connected community. Functional integration and the connected everything is the future.”

He added: “The key to this is no longer the big idea, but the whole idea. Where the story comes together is where we have the whole idea.”

That's why the company has again flipped its model on its head, said Greenberg. No longer can agencies be set up to do TV advertising and then integrate digital and social elements, but take its cues from the internet, mobile and social to come up with new types of TV advertising.

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