R/GA has a stellar reputation in the ad industry. Nike Plus is still a staple of presentations about the future of branding in digital. For the most part, the agency has not been a lightning rod of much controversy in the vein of a shop like Crispin. But it’s in a new role this week in the aftermath of the uproar over Amp Energy’s “Amp Up Before You Score” iPhone app, which has been slammed on blogs (including this one), Twitter, CNN, Fox News and NPR. Pepsi, which owns Amp, has been on the receiving end of most of the ire, but it was R/GA that created all those stereotypes and the brag list that’s gotten everyone bothered (and the video above, done in the style of the iPhone ads, which has been handy b-roll for TV segments.) If the shop was courting controversy all along as a strategy to raise Amp’s profile and its cred with the young-male target audience, it’s done a good job of hiding those intentions. Jay Zasa, the creative director on the project, told me before the controversy erupted that he was surprised the app got a 17+ rating and thought it was lighthearted. No matter where you fall on the issue, there’s no doubt that controversy sells. “Amp Up” is now the No. 2 most-popular free app in the iTunes entertainment category, and No. 11 overall. It’s safe to say this is probably the most attention the Amp brand has ever gotten. A separate question is whether, in the long run, this will add to R/GA’s reputation or live on as a blemish. What do your think?
—Posted by Brian Morrissey