Digital ad shop R/GA, viewed in New York ad circles as one of the hotter agencies working in the rapidly-expanding online arena, has been quietly setting up a Chicago operation for the past 12 months.
Still, it's way too early to say what kind of success R/GA will enjoy in Chicago, where so many agencies, big and small, are struggling. Sean McCarthy is R/GA's managing director in Chicago. Ken Erke, formerly the chief creative officer at Young & Rubicam/Chicago, and Matt Marcus, most recently an independent marketing consultant, have been brought on board to oversee creative. The Chicago shop's only two accounts so are S.C. Johnson and Dow, and one of those could be in jeopardy. S.C. Johnson said last week it is launching a global agency review, and all its roster agencies, including R/GA, will have to pitch if they wish to hold on to their part of the business, or possibly win more.
McCarthy's background includes a stint at DDB/Chicago, where he worked on the AT&T business. Before that McCarthy had a long tenure at DraftFCB/Chicago, where he would have become familiar with that agency's large chunk of S.C. Johnson business, which also could be in jeopardy.
Earlier this month, R/GA moved into 10,000 square feet of loft space at 217 N. Jefferson in Chicago's west loop district. The staff currently numbers 20. The agency's ability to grow will depend in part on the quality of the creative, and, even more, on how adept McCarthy, Erke and Marcus are at new business development. McCarthy had not run an agency before getting the nod at R/GA, so his role there will test his managerial capabilities.