Interactive agencies, winner: AKQA

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AKQA, based in San Francisco, had an outstanding year in 2004. It grew its revenue by 20%, launched major campaigns for b-to-b clients, opened a New York office and hired some of the best creative and technology talent in the world.

The agency's b-to-b clients include palmOne, UGS and the U.S. Small Business Administration. B-to-b work accounts for roughly 31% of the agency's revenue.

One of its most high-profile campaigns was for the launch of the palmOne Treo 600, a wireless handheld device that works as a cell phone, Web browser, organizer and digital camera.

For the palmOne Treo, AKQA developed an interactive microsite that allowed users to experience the different functions of the device by interacting with different user environments. The campaign was runner-up in the interactive category in last year's BtoB's Best competition.

For software company UGS, which was spun off from EDS in May 2004, AKQA redesigned the corporate Web site and created an online ad campaign to drive awareness of the new brand. UGS was so pleased with the work that it hired the agency to develop print ads and direct mail as well.

AKQA also redesigned, the Web site for the U.S. Small Business Administration. The agency had the challenge of integrating information from more than 40 government agencies and creating a user-friendly experience for small businesses.

"One of our key skills is being able to speak to CMOs and CEOs about technology in understandable terms," said Shane Ginsberg, managing director of AKQA, which was founded in 1990. "Our technology folks can speak passionately about the brand, and they really understand how to use this stuff."

AKQA made several key hires in 2004, including Ginsberg; Kate Thorp, president-interactive advertising; Subbu Balakrishnan, director of technology; Rei Inamoto, global creative director; PJ Pereira, executive creative director, San Francisco; and Lars Bastholm, executive creative director, New York.

"Creative is a huge differentiator," Ginsberg said. "Everyone can do search engine optimization and search engine marketing. Companies that are looking to create brand differentiation are coming to us." -K.M.

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