Gabey Goh
Jun 21, 2016

R/GA sets up Tokyo 'launch pad' office

While at Cannes, R/GA’s CEO and founder Bob Greenberg and Jim Moffatt, Asia Pacific EVP and MD, talk to Campaign Asia-Pacific about their ambitions for Asia.

L-R: Jim Moffatt and Bob Greenberg
L-R: Jim Moffatt and Bob Greenberg

CANNES - The 'Straight Outta Compton' campaign for Beats by Dre, by R/GA's Los Angeles office is expected to do very well at this year’s Cannes Lions Festival, but for the network’s Asia Pacific operations, the real race starts next week.

Topping the list is the launch of operations in Tokyo. The office will start small and concentrate on serving anchor client Google, according to Jim Moffatt, Asia Pacific EVP and MD.

“We’ll use that as the launch pad to grow our operations there,” he said.

The agency is optimistic about potential in the market but does not plan to rush. Bob Greenberg, R/GA’s founder and CEO, said it was important to work on getting the offering right. It will be “complicated”, he said, given the strengths of domestic agencies Dentsu and Hakuhodo.

“A lot of people go in and don’t get their model right—it’s not easy to do,” he said. “We’re going slowly and picking our partners carefully.”

It’s not the first difficult market the network has set up in.  “Buenos Aires was another complicated office,” Greenberg said. “And the Singapore office too for a while as we didn't have the right leadership on board and the market at the time had a limited amount of the right type of people we wanted.”

But Greenberg said Asia-Pacific remains highly important for R/GA’s global growth. The network has just enjoyed its strongest year financially and surpassed 2,000 staff.

Moffatt noted that there are three possible routes for how the agency can grow in Japan, the first being servicing the local needs of global brands such as Beats By Dre or Google. The second is working with Japanese brands wanting to expand internationally.

“Our Tokyo office then becomes a shop window for the work we do in London, New York or Sydney,” he added.

But the third and possibly more exciting route for the agency is one that sees it partnering with Japanese brands to innovate not just their communications strategy but products as well.

“There’s an opportunity for us to disrupt,” Moffatt added.

That ties in with the Asian launch of the agency's Prototype Studio operations in March this year, headquartered in Singapore and led by Jeff Donois, R/GA’s regional CTO and Singapore technical director Laurent Thevenet.

Right now for the 320-person team in Asia, the focus is on “producing the work that tells the story”. “You can talk a lot and get the PR machine going, but it all boils down to ‘where’s the work?’” Moffat said. “We’ve got such a reputation in the industry out of New York and London, so now it’s about getting clients on board and getting cracking on the work and it’s started to come through.”

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