Staff Reporters
Mar 27, 2023

Agency Report Card 2022: RGA

Well-positioned to deliver the apps, experience and digital services that clients need, RGA’s new management kept its course strong and steady, with solid, if not exceptional, work.

Museum of Chinese in Australia
Museum of Chinese in Australia

RGA accurately positions itself on ‘the right side of change.’ More clients needed help this year with improving their digital experiences and the IPG-owned digital agency was happy to oblige, spurring strong growth in 2022, even in a challenged market like China.  

With a new shared management structure, the company further feels it’s on the right side of change when it comes to their flexible workforce allowed to work at various locations throughout the region, and with clients that align with their values. Although we didn’t see any work this year that took our breath away, RGA has nonetheless kept its reputation as a solid shop for digital craft.

Category 2022 2021
Business B+ B+
Innovation B B+
DEI and sustainability C+ B-
Creativity and effectiveness B- B-
Management B+ B+
*2021 scores adjusted to new numeric scale. Read about the grading methodology

Business (B+)

Digital agency RGA had a rough year globally, with lacklustre results weighing on parent company IPG’s earnings with layoffs and office closures in the US. But Asia-Pacific bucked those results with stellar numbers this year, culminating in 21% revenue growth and a 40% hike in profits, on top of last year’s substantial gains.  

The agency’s APAC leaders attribute much of the growth to several lines of business mentioned in the innovation section: RGA3 saw the agency develop an entire new line of business around the metaverse and NFTs that didn’t exist before, while its new Data Lab business measured and encouraged greater effectiveness, giving existing key clients like Google, Nike, Toyota and Unilever the confidence to further diversify their work with RGA. Its high-margin Indonesian data centre continued to grow as a profit centre as well.  

RGA continues to employ a more selective approach to pitching using a ‘new business qualification score system’ to determine when to make a move, which successfully brought in a bevy of new clients adding up to 20% of its total revenues. Australia had a particularly good year, adding multiple key government accounts alongside TPG Telecom and new work for McDonald’s. Despite a challenging economy in China in 2022, the Shanghai business had its best year in terms of growth, margin and stability, as it secured a big automotive contract. Singapore, meanwhile, was responsible for reeling in key global clients, including Shangri-La and a global tech company. All its top clients were retained and client satisfaction scores were very strong in 3 of 4 markets. 

Innovation (B)

Innovation is baked into RGA, more than most other agencies. They tend to spot trends early, as they did with NFTs and the metaverse in 2022 and encouraged quick proficiency by giving staff digital wallets to redeem office gifts. As an early leader in the APAC metaverse, they held webinars and published materials while helping clients like AC Milan mint their first NFTs. One of their top clients was Earth2, aiding the creation of a virtual new world. 

RGA launched Data Lab out of Melbourne in 2021 to be a conduit for data-led services between its departments on the client’s behalf. This year its headcount tripled as it focused on four main areas: growth (UX, SEO, sales performance), measurement, data sciences and engineering, which led to new business growth areas for key clients listed above.  

Similarly, its Indonesian tech hub expanded in size to 45 strong. Although based in Batam, most of its workforce is spread across the country. It is part of a ‘distributed creativity’ strategy around hybrid work that RGA credits with bringing innovative work to clients like Google and Timberland.  

RGA scores a ‘very good’ grade of B this year for largely building on successful past initiatives while exhibiting some pioneering metaverse and NFT work.

DEI & Sustainability (C+)

RGA maintains a healthy gender split among the regional executive team (64% women) and local MDs (50%) as well as at the top, where APAC duties are shared between Asia MD Dorothy Peng and Australia MD Michael Titshall.  

The agency maintains a variety of DEI initiatives, largely through its RGA iD program, made up of monthly events that have included transgender awareness, mental health, indigenous history and culture and DEI listening sessions to craft staff policies that are more inclusive.  

Most of this isn’t terribly new, but a new initiative in 2022 was a ‘neuro-linguistic enneagram workshop’ that helps employees understand their strengths and be the healthiest versions of themselves.  

Progress on sustainability and ESG remains underwhelming, largely limited to moving into eco-smart offices, flying less and encouraging reusables. Carbon usage is not yet calculated. The biggest positive came via a pitch RGA won for Energetics, a company that works with more prominent Australian companies to reduce emissions, but details on the work are scant.  

Compared with other agencies, DEI efforts are slightly above average, while sustainability nets out below. For this reason, RGA only gets an ‘average’ grade here.  

Creativity & Effectiveness (B-)

Sadly for us, some of RGA’s best examples of work this year were done for prickly (our words, not theirs) clients like Meta and Nike who don’t want it showcased. Too bad, because it’s exactly the type of brand work that agencies are being asked to do more of by clients. Building apps, creating communities, using AR, enabling personalisation and creating social video in new and innovative ways are all critical needs for brands right now that RGA can deliver on.  

But there were other good examples we can talk about, Timbstrails, an immersive interactive experience for Timberlands’ younger consumers; launch work for the Google Pixel 6 Pro, and a more straightforward campaign for Prudential aimed at promoting more inclusive representations of family.  Because of the nature of its work, RGA is much less likely to clean up at Cannes Lions or Spikes. More appropriate award shows for the digital experience agency focus on web design and experience, like the Webbys and AGDA design awards, where it fared well.  

On a cultural and artistic level, RGA’s work in creating a new Museum of Chinese in Australia (MOCA) demonstrates an evolution in how heritage can be celebrated, combining physical and digital elements to keep a community’s shared experience vibrant.  

Whilst 2022 didn’t deliver a knock-out idea that we haven’t seen before, the work here was solid, once again deserving a ‘good’ grade of B-.  

Management (B+)

RGA’s management in Asia underwent significant change last summer after the departure of APAC managing director Tuomas Peltoniemi and APAC chief creative officer Seamus Higgins. APAC leadership was ultimately split, with Singapore GM Dorothy Peng being promoted to SVP managing director for Asia, while Michael Titshall was also made SVP, still responsible for its largest market in Australia.  

While Peltoniemi will be missed, Peng and Titshall say their shared leadership gels well with RGA’s commitment to ‘distributed creativity.’ So far, they show signs of working well together, given the solid earnings and agency growth in 2022. Headcount, which is roughly split between Australia and Asia, increased by 25% from 200 to 250, while staff turnover fell by 10 percentage points from 30% to 20%. 

While there is no single factor to account for the improvement, Peng and Titshall note that a lot more time was spent having career conversations to draw out long-term development plans in a program called Career Canvas. But beyond this, the leaders feel their staff buys into their purpose to create “a more human future” in doing work with Energetics and MOCA. They also like having a say in the clients they chose, and the leaders cited several instances where staff voted against working with potential clients who lacked purpose or integrity.  

Brand Design & Consulting (9%)
Product + Experiences (69%)
Connected Communications (22%)

Brand Design and Consulting
Experience Design and Build
Digital, social and Integrated Marketing

A-Leagues
AA Company
Earth 2
General Motors
Google
Governmental organisation (Australia)
Nike
Prudential 
Samsung
Toyota

A-: This year, we positioned R/GA on the right side of change for a newly disrupted world. We invested in our people and their well-being and increased our commitment to ESG. We saw continued growth across our business in a challenging economy. And we saw the global impact of our work and recognition on the world stage. Because of this, we believe we should be elevated to an A-.

Source:
Campaign Asia

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