Agencies Spread Their Wings to Grow Brands Using New Technologies Today, Ad Age announced the 2018 winners of its A-List awards, honoring...
Agencies Spread Their Wings to Grow Brands Using New Technologies
Today, Ad Age announced the 2018 winners of its A-List awards, honoring this year’s 11 best and brightest agencies in the advertising and marketing worlds. Portland-based Wieden & Kennedy topped the list, for the first time since 2011. Ad Age editors noted that the agency reinvented itself to deliver gusty, nimble, digitally innovative work for such clients as KFC, Bud Light, Lyft and Airbnb.
"In the current climate, funneling a ton of dollars into one epic TV spot isn’t going to cut it anymore,” said Brian Braiker, Ad Age editor-in-chief. “Brands want digital fireworks, viral social expressions, live activations, brand-safe influencers, mom-friendly fare, edgy pop and organic chatter — all for the same low price (or, better yet, lower!) as before.”
The Ad Age A-List winners reflect an industry in a constant state of reinvention. With purposeful ferocity, these top companies are expanding the ways in which clients can reach their customers. They’re using artificial intelligence, virtual reality and emerging digital platforms, e-commerce, and yes, TV ads. The agencies on the list have mastered this new “story-everywhere” environment; they’ve upended corporate culture, broken silos, formed innovation units and funded new ventures. As a result, all have experienced revenue growth and significant new business wins.
Yet, choosing this year’s winners was fraught, as the #MeToo movement took hold in the agency business. Wieden & Kennedy swiftly parted ways with its London strategy director earlier this year after HR complaints, and another agency on the list, Droga5, axed its chief creative officer and another top creative, since January. On the flip side, two winning agencies addressed equality in the workplace: VML and 72andSunny were certified by the 3% movement as providing inclusive cultures in which both men and women can thrive.
Ad Age’s Braiker and Executive Editor, Judann Pollack, wrote about the choices in their editor’s letter in the issue, published today: “The six Ad Age judges decided that it was better to encourage shops to eliminate bad actors rather than penalize those that already have. We realize this decision might be controversial. But the agencies on this list are doing outstanding creative work and delivering results for clients—and they are doing so through the collective efforts of hundreds of employees, not just a few bad actors.”
The full list of the 2018 Ad Age A-List Winners is below.
Wieden & Kennedy, last year’s Ad Age top creative agency, reinvented itself for a new era of marketing where TV ads are no longer enough to win clients and grow brands. The agency ushered in a “branded everything” approach that inserts brands into pop culture in unexpected ways using everything from Reddit to comic books. Standout work includes KFC and Old Spice. In an industry dominated by massive holding companies, Wieden & Kennedy remains independent.
McCann made people stop, think and share this year with its “Fearless Girl,”winning five Grand Clios, the most in history. At a time when the giants faced stunted revenue, McCann’s revenue grew 6%.
VML St. Louis-based VML, the brains behind the PR stunt, #NuggsforCarter for Wendy’s, was a no-brainer for the list. The agency also made smart use of virtual reality for Gatorade, too.
ANOMALY sprung ahead, winning business like Diet Coke, Reese’s and Carnival Cruises. Along the way, it beefed up its leadership roster with women and minorities. Its bet on intellectual property, such as its cannabis vape pens Humbldt (now Dosist), is starting to pay off. Anomaly was #1 on the list last year.
JOHANNES LEONARDO is a newcomer to the A-List, and the agency made strides through its ongoing partnership with Adidas’ Originals brand stories, and initiatives for Mass Mutual, such as its campaign encouraging people to sponsor a NYC marathon runner. Last year, agency revenue grew a whopping 82%.
R/GA reflects the future of the ad agency model, as it moved further away from traditional advertising into consulting, and, through R/GA Ventures, which backed 89 startups. One campaign that captured attention was the Ad Council’s takeover of the “kiss cam” at the 2017 NFL Pro Bowl in Orlando, for “Love Has No Labels.” The video has 46.4 million views.
360i Digital native, 360i, turned its attention on voice marketing consulting, including making the most of Amazon’s Alexa, for example. The agency is also winning at bundling creative and media together for new clients like BMW’s Mini, handling digital, social media and customer relationship management.
72nd and Sunny sharpened its reputation as bold cultural conversationalists with its mom-shaming campaign for Yoplait, a tip hotline where people could share opinions on child-rearing. The company was tapped to help the city of Los Angeles pitch the 2024 Olympics. New wins include Uber. The agency also committed to diversity and fostering a safe workplace culture well ahead of the #MeToo movement.
Mullen Lowe says it saw 198 new business wins across its global network in 2017, including Whole Foods, E-Trade and Chipotle. Its Mediahub arm won a Cannes Lion for its work for the Netflix series, “Narcos,” including recreating Pablo Escobar’s favorite sweater to give to influencers.
Droga5 focused the year’s work on adding value and tackling big issues for such clients as The New York Times with its “Truth” campaign that confronted the U.S. political climate head on.
Laundry Service started as a social agency and today the seven-year-old shop boasts 436 employees pumping out and distributing clever, captivating content across platforms for clients such as Hennessy, which last year included a five-part digital documentary, social, out of home, print and TV. Other wins this year include J. Crew, NBC Sports, and Sephora.
In addition to the A-List winners, these agencies topped in other categories:
B-to-b agency of the year: MRM McCann
In-house agency of the year: Spotify
Media agency of the year: Assembly
Multicultural agency of the year: The Community
Multicultural agency of year runner-up: Burrell
Executive of the Year: Margaret Johnson, chief creative officer, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners
Comeback agency of the year: Goodby, Silverstein & Partners
Innovator of the Year (formerly Creativity Agency of the Year): David
Production company of the year: Somesuch
International Agency of the Year: BBH Singapore
Ad Age first awarded the top agency honor in 1974, when Cunningham and Walsh, now defunct, came in first place.
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