After spending the last four-and-a-half years at R/GA’s New York hub, where he served as senior strategist, working with clients ranging from Nike to Unilever to Samsung in the process, Jon Jones has left the agency for the digital age to assume the chief digital officer position at The Incite Agency. In case you don’t know what Incite is, it’s the communcations firm co-founded by Robert Gibbs, President Obama‘s former press secretary. Jones has some history with Obama as he served as his first digital strategist for his 2008 presidential campaign. During his career, Jones has also worked for trades like The New Republic.
As with all tips, we check, and a phone call to “the agency for the digital age” seems to say as much as Dawn Winchester is apparently no longer in R/GA’s directory. Winchester has been with R/GA since 1999, moving up the ladder from director of client services to EVP/client services to her most recent position as EVP/global chief marketing services officer, working out of the agency’s NYC hub. Prior to her lengthy stay at R/GA, Winchester spent two years as VP/management supervisor at Ammirati Puris Lantis Digital and before that, founded the interactive offshoot of New York agency, BK&S.
What gives, R/GA? We inquired six weeks ago about this and no response, but yes, Seth Solomons has indeed joined “the agency for the digital age” as EVP/managing director of its New York hub and global chief client services officer. Who knows how their PR machine works, but it doesn’t seem to be intact as we’ve been told that Solomons joined well over a month ago after serving as CEO of CRM365 and spending a dozen years at Digitas, last serving as global CMO prior.
During his career, Solomons also served as SVP/account director at Wunderman, where he spent nearly a decade. In his current role at R/GA, Solomons is tasked with overseeing not only client services but analytics, planning, CRM, media and digital on a global scale.
R/GA Ignition and Prettybird are behind the latest viral marketing campaign for X-Men: Days of Future Past. The timely campaign (coming just days after the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination), positions Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto) as President Kennedy’s convicted killer. It’s a compelling and immersive story that ties together the X-Men universe and American history.
The above video, “The Bent Bullet,” is just the beginning. The Bent Bullet website contains a wealth of other material (in addition to the video), mixing text with video and interactive elements, including a look inside Magneto’s Trask Industries designed cell. If you’re a fan of the X-Men, it’s pretty fascinating stuff. There’s even a full-length article, attributed to Harper Simmons, profiling Erik Lehnsherr and questioning his involvement in the JFK assassination. In the article, Lehnsherr finally speaks, and seems to implicate a different X-Men character in the assassination.
The Bent Bullet’s alternate history claims Kennedy had prepared a speech addressing the tumultuous relationship between humans and mutants, calling on Americans to accept those with the X-Gene, if only implicitly. It also addresses Kennedy’s CIA-led Project: WideAwake, which led to the assassinations of Azazel and Tempest and was presumably the motive for Kennedy’s assassination by the mutant Lehnsherr. X-Men obsessives will love this (and probably have already experienced the whole site), but it’s well worth the time of even casual fans or curious parties. Kudos to R/GA and Prettybird for pulling off such an immersive, intriguing, and just plain fun web experience to promote X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Well, after making a phone call to “the agency for the digital age,” we learned that William Charnock was not in the company directory, which perhaps tells us what tipsters have been saying since last night, that R/GA’s chief strategy officer has parted ways (or vice versa). Charnock was appointed as chief strategy officer nearly four years ago at R/GA, working out of the agency’s New York headquarters.
We’re double-checking with the agency’s PR folks, but prior to his time at R/GA, Charnock spent nearly eight years at JWT, last serving as director of strategic planning/co-head of strategic planning out of the agency’s Big Apple hub. During his career, the exec held various planning director roles at the likes of BBDO, what was FCB and Ogilvy London/New York.
It appears that the numbers on the Spy line basically checked out as an R/GA spokesperson has confirmed that the IPG-owned agency, which now houses 13 global offices, has had to reduce staff this week. Here’s the statement that pretty much sums it up:
“R/GA’s growth and the expansion of offices have led to the creation of a new model in New York, which has been broken out into eight groups that function as independent agencies. The implementation of this model has led to a realignment of staff, and 23 positions across departments and capabilities in the New York office will be affected. This reduction represents less than 2% of our staff. We regret to see these talented staff members depart, and hope that we’ll see some of them return in the future.
R/GA is growing in New York and expanding internationally, which shows that our movement to a group model is working. These necessary changes ensure that R/GA will continue to maintain the highest standards of creative work and client support.”
But why are they keeping it hush-hush if so? We called the agency for the digital age’s NYC hub and the person we spoke to didn’t have a contact number for the office and said she “didn’t think so” when asked if R/GA Portland had opened its doors. Hmm, well, for the last few days, we’ve been getting tips like this: “rga portland open for bizness. snatched up best creative from chicago office.” OK, perhaps the grammar doesn’t lend to its legitimacy, but the agency, which just took over for Razorfish on Samsung’s U.S. digital account, is officially hiring in the PDX and has been as far back as January.
Normally, R/GA’s PR folks are happy to send us announces boasting new office openings, which have happened quite often over the last year alone, but now they’ve been unusually unresponsive. Who knows, perhaps they’re formalizing things including staff and even the press release, but whatever the case, the office in Portlandia would be the 13th in the network. If anyone has a contact or knows who the R/GA Chicago creative is who headed to the Northwest, give us a shout in the tips box or at agencyspy at gmail dot com.
After spending nearly the last three years at Digital Kitchen Chicago, where he served as executive producer/general manager, Jeff Brecker has moved over to R/GA’s Windy City office to assume the role of managing director. Brecker replaces Sean McCarthy, who parted ways with the agency for the digital age last fall and is now in the same role at Resource Interactive.
Anyhow, the new R/GA Chicago MD has high praise for his new boss Bob Greenberg, saying in a statement that R/GA’s founder “…is one of the greatest visionaries of our time, and it’s an honor to work with and learn from him. R/GA Chicago has a reputation as a high-end digital boutique backed by a global agency leader known for creating progressive digital and social solutions.” Prior to his stint at Digital Kitchen, Brecker served as SVP/creative director at Leo Burnett and has also served as director of interactive production at Ogilvy during his career.
Wait, didn’t this just happen, like twice over recently? Well, yes, but R/GA appears to be opening up shop like Barnes & Noble in the late 90s/early aughts, the latest being an L.A. office, which has officially opened its doors just two months after the agency for the digital age settled in Sydney. The new Santa Monica branch marks R/GA’s second California-based space, following San Francisco of course, and currently houses five staffers with seven open positions that are in the process of being filled over the next couple of weeks. According to the IPG agency, the goal is to expand to 30 employees in its first year.
As for leadership, R/GA plucked several staffers from within including a few who worked on Nike business for years such as Tara Greer, ECD, experience design, Mark Laughlin, ECD, visual design, and Luke Stiles, senior technology director. Rounding out the management in the City of Angels are Andy Sullivan, MD/biz dev, senior producer Chris Sullivan and Steve Weinswig, currently VP/managing director at R/GA SF who will pull double-duty for the time being as interim managing director in LA.
In terms of clients, those in the know tell us that the R/GA L.A. crew is “working with an existing client that we aren’t able to disclose right now along with moving forward in some pitch work for clients in the area.”
If the name Peter Kim sounds somewhat familiar, it’s because it was only two months ago that R/GA’s managing director, business information was appointed to the management team of the agency’s new Austin office. But alas, after spending just five months in all at “the agency for the digital age,” Kim has headed back to familiar territory, joining up with data-driven marketing firm Dachis Group, which he helped start back in 2008, to assume the newly created position of chief solutions architect.
Why the return to Dachis, where he was employee number one and originally served as chief strategy officer? Well, on his blog today, Kim explains that “I was pleasantly surprised by the progress that had been made during my absence. The tools are the most advanced offerings in market today and continuing to evolve. I also realized that the challenges that Dachis Group is solving for – how to help marketers make social business work – are the same challenges that have been driving me ever since I joined Forrester Research in 2005. These issues were initially unknown at the advent of corporate social media; identifying the knowable and moving clients into the known is immensely satisfying for me.”
We’re checking to see if R/GA has a replacement planned for Kim, who in his new role at his old haunt will be responsible for “the continuous definition, development, and delivery of data-driven social marketing solutions for Dachis Group’s global clients and client prospects.”