BFG 9000 New York
Press releases don't typically take up much of our attention when it comes to assessing an agency's yearly creative performance. But it's near impossible to ignore the creative rigor that Gerry Graf and his cohorts at BFG 9000 invest into the young agency's big announcements. For example, to herald the arrival of ECD Eric Kallman, formerly of Wieden + Kennedy Portland, Mr. Graf hung a makeshift sign out his window. A more recent installment of new hires from Apple, Google and W+K enlisted the services of a town crier--with a very loud bell. But the fun only begins there. For actual client Kayak.com, the shop created some truly laugh out loud work, including a series of online spots that showed you 58 different ways to improve your search for cheap online tickets, doubling consumers' awareness of the brand in the process. For DishNetwork, it tapped a cast of colorful weirdos like a dancing mailing and a cowboy with oversize accessories to bring entertainment to consumers' doors. 2012 promises even more good times with clients Pinnacle Foods and BabyGanics.
Forsman & Bodenfors
The Swedish shop may have lost a pair of its top talents (Ikea Facebook Showroom's Robert Lund and Adam Ulvegarde are now officially part of the McCann family), but it still turned out some of the year's most remarkable creative. Although the 2011 work for Ikea didn't live up to the simple brilliance of Showroom and 2010's "Homemade is Best," it still featured some truly inventive moves for the brand, like the Vaggvissor "Lullabies" campaign that featured modern-day interpretations of lullabies, to sell mattresses, and "Catch the Swedish Light" which asked viewers to pinpoint when light hit Ikea products in YouTube videos, in order to win them. And while the shop has made a name for itself on the digital front, it also had a particular strong spots year, with the surprise-ending "whiskey" spot for IQ and sleight-of-camera productions for If Insurance.
Mother, New York
While Mother has been a fixture on Creativity's annual list of honorees for the past few years--and earned the 2010 AOY honor, last year it proved that despite the odds, it could maintain creative momentum. Last year saw the very surprising departure co-founder Linus Karlsson for McCann, but the agency continued to experiment and play off the beaten path, with formats that were anything but everyday. One standout was its epic music video to promote the Red Bull Music Academy's World Tour, a blockbuster animated mashup that mixed up techniques and styles, created in collaboration with Passion Pictures. The shop also dabbled in some interesting ambient work with an "immersive theater experience" for Stella Artois -- a stateside extension of similar projects Mother London had done for the same client. Mother agency also delved into game-making, working with publisher Capcom to create an upcoming Sour Patch Kids videogame, the teaser for which featured a Method Man music video that, like the game itself, shows what really happens when Sour Patch Candy doesn't get eaten.
Wieden + Kennedy, New York
It's hard to ignore the Big Apple brand of the hotshot agency network, which seemed to experience a renaissance of sorts in 2011. The agency has always upheld a stellar reputation for longtime clients like Nike and ESPN, but since the arrival of award-winning creative duo of Ian Reichenthal and Scott Vitrone in February, it's given us a whole lot more to talk about. The shop remained as funny as ever with its latest executions for ESPN and the "It's Not Crazy, It's Sports" tag, but it broke out, in particular on the stunt front. For Jordan Brand, it created the mother of all projection mapping events with a spectacular a three-story-tall Carmelo Anthony dunk on the Hudson River, which was accompanied by a slick HTML-5-powered site that recreated the experience online. The New York shop also brought its own flavor to Heineken, most notably with its "Occasionally Perfect" outdoor experiences that turned run of the mill billboards in Chicago and New York into unforgettable concert experiences with TV on the Radio and Broken Social Scene.
Google Creative Lab
One of these things is not like the others. Yes, we're talking about Google Creative Lab. As an in-house creativity entity, it doesn't fit into the typical agency slot. But that's just the start of where this notion of "different" begins. As creative at BBH told Creativity in the fall of 2010, it's more like a combination of two (or three, or four) creative teams. Moreover, as ECD Robert Wong explained at a Creativity roundtable, the Lab's ideation and execution process takes after the company's engineers, steering clear of the typical bureaucratic rigamarole that goes on in the traditional shop. Yet it's a model that the rest of agency world should pay very close attention to. It the Lab's kind of thinking, and doing that has helped the brand, along with its various creative partners--like BBH, director Chris Milk and others--come out with consistently groundbreaking work. Thanks to stellar 2010 outings for Chrome, including the multi-awarded Arcade Fire "Wilderness Downtown," via Milk and Google's Aaron Koblin, as well as campaigns out of BBH New York, London and Johannes Leonardo, the Lab rocketed the brand to #3 most awarded advertiser of the year. 2011 proved just as creatively fertile. Another experiment with Milk+Koblin yielded "3 Dreams of Black," for Danger Mouse and Daniel Luppi's album "Rome," while its ongoing partnership with BBH New York produced unforgettable spots like "Dear Sophie" and "It Gets Better," make a strong case for the brand as the most emotionally stirring tech giant to hit the screen.