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Advertising & Society Review
Volume 10, Issue 1

R/GA Roundtable

Linda Scott: Let’s open with everyone giving both their title and a little of the story of how they came to be at R/GA and then, I’d really like to have Barry give us an overview of the history of the company, so we can frame how it fits with the digital, advertising, and media industries.

Nick Law: Nick Law, Chief Creative Officer of R/GA. Born in Sydney, Australia, started as a graphic designer, moved to London in 1988, worked in design there, worked at Pentagram, moved to DMB&B, which was an advertising company, moved to New York in 1994, started off in a corporate identity company called Diffenbach Elkins, which is now called Future Brand, and then moved to small advertising agency called FGI. Joined R/GA from 2001. So my background is pretty diverse: graphic design, advertising and digital.

Chloe Gottlieb: I’m Chloe Gottlieb, the head of the interaction design department at R/GA. I was most recently the Executive Creative Director on the Nokia account here. The interaction design discipline is one of the creative disciplines, along with copy and visual design. While interaction design discipline is a design discipline, it really thinks about the systems of interaction and the architecture that is needed to build experiences. Good interaction designers understand the importance of how interfaces communicate a brand and how it behaves to a consumer. They are very consumer-centered—the advocates of the consumers—and help to think through the whole experience set that somebody will go through.

In terms of my background, I was working at Parsons School of Design over ten years ago as the director of international student affairs. I was very inspired by all the design going on around me and had an epiphany that I would much rather be doing design than doing administrative work for the students. So I started taking classes and ended up getting a master’s degree from the New School in media studies. In May of 2000, I saw Bob Greenberg, who came in and spoke at Parsons and was so inspired by what he was talking about—the power of this next wave of digital experiences—that I actually knew on the spot that I wanted to work wherever he was. I approached him after the talk and struck up a conversation, and then by hook and by crook, not even through him, but through other means, found a job at R/GA as an interaction designer. I worked from interaction designer all the way up through executive creative director with a pause, when I left and went to Razorfish for a couple of years in 2003, but I came back knowing that R/GA is really a place I’ll always continue to grow and learn from the people around me and do the things that will be game-changing for people. We really have the potential to impact people’s lives here.

Jay Zasa: I’m Executive Creative Director. I was born in Cleveland, Ohio and majored in philosophy and creative writing at Miami University in Ohio. I came into this through having been a staff writer at Columbia University, the School of Engineering and Applied Science in the early 1990s, as the internet and the World Wide Web were being developed, thanks to a lot of people who were working there at the time. They were very forward thinking, trying to get the administration of the university involved in using the internet. There was training available to teach people how to make web pages at a time when no one had really heard of those things. So I really got interested in the possibilities of the internet. I started looking around, to find out if anyone was actually making a living doing that. I found a company called Agency.com, which at the time was a start-up of about 15 people. I became the first copywriter there. It was 1995, very much at the beginning of the internet advertising industry of 1995, and I worked there for about 3 years. Then I worked at a place called APL Digital. From there I went to Ogilvy Interactive, where I worked for 6 years. I came to R/GA in 2005.

Barry Wacksman: I’m Chief Growth Officer for R/GA. I’ve been at R/GA since 1999. Jay and I worked together at APL Digital. Prior to APL, I was part of a small start up internet agency. So I’ve been in the business since pretty much the beginning. In terms of educational background, I was a philosophy student; I was a failed PhD candidate in philosophy. I decided to drop out and move to New York. In my early career in New York, I started out as a computer consultant. I just happened to know how to use computers when a lot of people didn’t. When the web came along, I jumped in the field immediately and I’ve been doing it ever since. So I’ve been here for nearly 10 years, and in the time that I’ve been here, it’s grown from a company of about 50 people to over 700 people today.

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