Ben Williams, the global chief experience officer at R/GA, is leaving the agency after nearly a decade to embark on a yet-to-be-named new challenge.
“Change is in R/GA’s DNA, and also in mine,” Williams said in a statement. “It’s why I have called R/GA home for the last decade, but also why I have made the decision to move on and challenge myself with something new. As we know, R/GA reimagines itself every nine years and, taking on that philosophy myself, I am excited to reinvent myself also after my own nine-plus year cycle.”
Williams rose at R/GA from an associate creative director for the Nike brand, up the ladder to creative director, executive creative director, head of creative in New York, to his current position. He began his career as an art director at Hyperlink and also held positions at Swish Group, AKQA and Publicis, as well as being founder and creative director of his own venture, StudioExit.
“Ben has been a driving force behind groundbreaking work for R/GA during his decade with us,” R/GA’s global CEO Sean Lyons said in a statement. “His passion for human-centered design and his integration of brand experience and digital commerce has led to many transformative products, services and experiences … Ben has had quite a journey at R/GA, he was instrumental in helping establish our Portland office in 2015, creatively leading our New York office, attracting and establishing new clients and talent and most recently defining a global vision and playbook for experience at R/GA. I’d like to thank Ben for his contributions to R/GA and wish him the best of luck with his next move.”
Ashish Prashar, R/GA’s global chief marketing officer, said that Williams is definitely going to be missed, but that there is an opportunity now for the agency to hire C-level talent that represents a more diverse background with different life experiences, something that Williams wanted to see happen.
“He had a big impact on the culture of R/GA. He’s been an advocate for … the right people being elevated,” Prashar told Adweek, adding that Williams’ humanity stood out in both his personal and professional life, coming out in the work he and his team created.
In his departing statement, Williams said that change is an opportunity to transform, and he hopes his personal decision opens a door for new talent and perspective at R/GA.
“I have loved every minute at R/GA and my time here has shaped me into the creative I am today. I’d like to personally thank the teams at R/GA that I have been honored to work with that have taught and inspired me, the clients that have pushed me to be better and the leadership team at R/GA for the opportunity and partnership,” Williams said.
An official statement from R/GA thanked Williams for his groundbreaking work and for building “an incredible team and, most importantly, led work that has measurably grown our clients’ business.”
In addition to Williams leaving, the agency announced it has brought on Michael Olaye as vp, managing director of its experience community (XC) at R/GA New York. In the role, Olaye works closely with Williams and the broader experience team. He joins from Stockholm’s The North Alliance, where he served as chief growth officer. Prior to North Alliance, he was a founding member of creative agency U-dox & Crooked Tongues in 2001