On the Spot: Bob Greenberg

R/GA’s founder and chief creative officer has reinvented his New York-based agency several times in its 25 years. R/GA built its reputation as a visual-effects shop for film and commercials, and Greenberg, 54, won an Academy Award in 1986 for pioneering work in computer-assisted filmmaking. Now R/GA is an interactive agency focusing on Web-site design and digital branding for clients such as Ralston Purina and Nike.


Q. What inspired you to get into the Internet or interactive business?
A. Looking at the commercial and feature-film business, I felt there were no other innovations I could bring to the industry. The Internet reminded me of the early days of R/GA, when innovation was every where and anything could be tried.

Q. What was your first interactive project?
A. It was for Levi’s original Web site [in 1995], which used push technology for the first time and was considered a creative and technological breakthrough.

Q. Who had the greatest influence on your career?
A. The founders of the Bauhaus movement—Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, Marcel Breuer, et al.—who developed the model that the sum is greater than the indi vid ual parts and created the idea of integrating art, design, architecture and technology. This became the guiding principle for R/GA.

Q. Name the last ad that made you think, “I wish I’d done that.”
A. The online BMW Films series.

Q. What’s the smartest business decision you’ve made?
A. Taking the leap into the interactive-agency business, and staying in New York.

Q. If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?
A. Encourage people to be more collaborative.

Q. Which agency do you think is the most underrated?
A. In the interactive-agency business, too many agencies were overrated. During the boom years, they overpromised and under-delivered, and that’s why the business is still on its ass today.
Q. What needs to happen to change that?
A. Three things: Companies need to restructure until they achieve a sustainable financial model, develop “real” return on investment for the work they are doing, and they should keep it simple.

Q. What’s your dream assignment?
A. Creating a global campaign that originates as a digital assignment which is integrated across narrow band, broadband, wireless, print, broadcast, radio, direct, billboards, etc., by repurposing existing assets and creating new assets using the latest digital technology. Barring that, anything automotive or travel related.

Q. Is there a product you would refuse to work on?
A. Tap water, peach pits, used tires. Anything that’s not creatively driven.

Q. Name one person you’re dying to work with.

A. Renzo Piano, on the upcoming New York Times headquarters building that is planned to be constructed down the block.

Q. What was your most recent creative coup?
A. That’s a toss-up between the 23-story digital sign in Times Square for Reuters/Instinet or some of our recent Nike work.

Q. Give me three words to describe yourself.
A. Bald, tall, Jewish.

Q. How about three words that describe how others perceive you?
A. Eccentric, innovative and Jewish.

Q. Name the last CD or book you bought.
A. First edition of J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey and the Original Jacket Collection Glenn Gould Plays Bach.

Q. What did you do last weekend?
A. Rode my Ducati 996 motorcycle from my office in Manhattan to North Salem, N.Y., and then crashed at my house in Lonelyville, Fire Island. Did absolutely nothing for the rest of the weekend.

Q. What’s your personal motto?
A. I owe, I owe, it’s off to work I go.