R/GA Undergoes Leadership Changes Amid ‘Foundational’ Repositioning

Saneel Radia, Mike Rigby and Barry Wacksman are leaving to form a consultancy

R/GA CEO Sean Lyons told Adweek that the agency is 'always changing things.' R/GA
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R/GA is once again reimagining its business.

The agency is undergoing a “foundational” change with a new focus for the coming decade as it parts with a trio of important leaders and enters a new era.

Global chief innovation officer Saneel Radia, global head of brand Mike Rigby and vice chairman, global chief strategy officer Barry Wacksman are all leaving R/GA to form an innovation consultancy, R/GA confirmed to Adweek. Global head of operations Colby Dennison, vp, business transformation Philip Rackin and R/GA New York vp, head of strategy Rachel Mercer are also leaving for the consultancy.

“Every nine years, R/GA changes the fundamentals of its operating model to align with the future of technology and the influence it will have on people, culture and clients,” the agency said in a statement. “Spurred by recent shifts in the consumer landscape and the newly kaleidoscopic future of work, we’re announcing a series of foundational changes designed for the next cycle: a focus on the growing overlap between brand marketing and customer experience, plus the creation of AI-driven software to innovate how R/GA and our clients operate.”

R/GA CEO Sean Lyons told Adweek that the agency is “always changing things.”

“We talk about the company being only 80% complete, which is fun because you can never rest on your laurels,” he said.

Lyons added that Covid-19 “has been an accelerant for everyone,” and said that R/GA is taking the opportunity to double down on its digital design and development capabilities to help companies create what he calls a “more human future.”

As with many agencies across the industry, Covid-19 also presented a difficult business environment. In April, R/GA went through a round of layoffs impacting around 10% of staff across the U.S. due to the business impact of the pandemic.

Lyons characterized R/GA’s repositioning as a pivot toward connecting the needs of the often-overlapping of chief experience officers and CMO roles, as well as expanding its software development and AI capabilities.

“What we’re seeing, not just from our own clients, but in data of what clients need, is the connection between what the [chief experience officer] does and the CMO does,” he said. “Being that connector is really essential.”

The changes accompany the departure of important, and in the case of Wacksman, long-running, agency leaders. These departures also follow global chief experience officer Richard Ting leaving R/GA after nearly two decades this summer.

Wacksman’s tenure with R/GA spans three decades. He arrived at the agency in 1999 and rose to roles as global chief growth officer and then global chief strategy officer. In 2018, he was also made a vice chairman.

Radia joined R/GA as global chief innovation officer at the beginning of 2016, leaving the agency’s innovation consulting practice. He previously founded and served as president for brand incubator Finch15.

Rigby started at the agency as group director, executive creative director, business transformation in 2014 and was promoted to global head of brand at the beginning of 2019. Before joining R/GA, he served as an executive creative director for Interbrand Australia.

“They’re incredible leaders who will be missed by me and my team but there’s also an incredible team behind them and the leadership team will be the first ones to tell you that,” Lyons said. “We’re looking forward to building future leaders. It’s a moment for us to co-create with that leadership team in organizational design, brand design and consulting. There’s clearly leaders that are rising. The team will be part of that process.”

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@ErikDOster erik.oster@adweek.com Erik Oster is an agencies reporter for Adweek.