I spoke to James Temple (ECD and VP, R/GA London) and Nick Law (global chief creative officer, R/GA) in an Austin Irish bar during the half-time break of the England v Wales Six Nations game.
Why do you come to SXSWi?
JT: We have started bringing clients here to expose them to a different type of thinking that’s more innovation focused. Also, we’re a direct participant of the show here, with the R/GA accelerator.
What are you most looking forward to at SXSWi?
Last year was a bit disappointing. There were a lot of talks about big data but when you got to them, there was no discussion about how to execute the data, or how it was applicable to brands. This year I’m looking forward to hearing about what the influence of big data will be.
Do you think R/GA is on top of things, digitally?
JT: Ha, yes, of course. Our relationship with Techstars is indicative of this. We’re getting behind these [start up] companies and helping them get to market, which shows we’re thinking beyond everyone else’s model.
NL: A lot of the Madison Avenue agencies come to SXSW and then go back and set up a lab, but it’s a hobby. They never really make anything and it takes talent from money-making parts of the business. We’ve never had a lab. We’re also one of the few agencies that has taken a product to market.
What’s the best bar/restaurant in Austin?
JT: Saltlake, the world’s best barbecue. For just $19, it keeps on coming.
Do you think there’s any danger that Austin will suffer in another tech bust?
JT: I don’t see any indication of that. R/GA has just opened an office here, so that shows our confidence in the city. The only danger is that the city may lose some credibility. It used to have a lot of tech edge, but now that the massive sponsors are getting involved with SXSWi, it erodes slightly the purist love of what it all stood for in the first place.
Who would be the speaker in your idea of the perfect talk?
JT: Getting Julian Assange to say something was pretty fantastic, even though it was through Skype. But now, it’s mostly the kids, the 18-21 year-olds that are changing the game. Hearing about their drive is good for everyone.
Are UK companies slower to adapt to digital than US companies?
JT: They’re certainly behind. Two years ago I would have said they are radically behind, but now the gap is definitely closing.
(L to R) James Temple and Nick Law