Published on .

Most Popular
Journalists, you might say, are fundamentally parasites, reporting on the accomplishments of others in order to build their own. In that proud tradition, Creativity presents the third annual Zenith List, a ranking of the top winners of some of the most important creative competitions. Without the Andys, the Art Directors Club awards, the Clios, the One Show, the Advertising Festival in Cannes, and a pile of calculator batteries, there'd be no Zenith List, a debt we acknowledge freely and gratefully. As in previous years, we've assigned point values to all these shows' Silver and Gold prizes, based on which competitions we think have the best reputation and the pickiest judges. Scientific? Nah. Accurate? Absolutely (at least, 10 out of 10 Zenith winners think so!), but we'll point out a few caveats. Not all agencies who enter awards shows enter all five of them -- some don't even enter most of them, thus reducing their shot at a Zenith placement. Also, the deck is stacked against non-American agencies, the majority of which do not enter U.S.-based shows. That our first-ever global Zenith List now has no fewer than four 'foreign' agencies on it, including two in the top five, is a testimony to how incredibly strong the work of those shops really is. In another surprise, an 'Internet' agency, Ogilvy Interactive, made the list for the first time -- surely a sign of the times. Equally jawdropping is the absence of former mainstays like TBWA/Chiat/Day and BBDO/New York. We feel particularly bad about this because the list was composed on a Mac while we all drank Pepsi and ate Taco Bell and Snickers bars.1. Cliff Freeman & Partners, NY

If Cliff Freeman ever found himself in a courtroom, he'd have little to worry about; the agency that bears his name knows how to charm a jury. Well, a jury of his professional peers anyway, but those seen-that-done-that muckety-mucks can be the toughest to impress. No problem: Faster than a speeding gerbil, the sizzling New York hotshop shoots to the top of the Zenith list, garnering more points than the numbers two and three combined. How'd they do it? Flawlessly executed, hugely entertaining work, including the controversial campaign, the Hollywood Video spots, and the hilarious mock-PSAs for Fox Sports online. Prediction for 2000: A perennial high scorer, Cliff'll be back, with at least one really big account that will silence skeptics who say Freeman can only service small-potato clients.

2. BMP DDB, London

Proving you can have a big voice without saying a word, BMP DDB in London moves into second place on the strength of mostly silent and copy-free advertising. New Polo spots, which show incredulous people responding to the car's low price, did well again, as did their print counterpart. In "Wedding," the happy couple is out of focus but the Polo's price is clear as day. Also doing well was the Sony Stamina Camcorder spot, "Unexpected." After a series of spectacularly bizarre mishaps that would have been the home-video footage of the year, the look the girl gives her battery-less boyfriend says more than any line of copy could.

3. Wieden & Kennedy/Portland

"It's hard to respect the French when you have to bail 'em out of two big ones in one century," intoned the Miller Highlife voiceover. That manly insult didn't hurt Wieden & Kennedy too much in the Lion's den, Cannes, where the Portland shop snagged two gold awards, both for Nike. Wieden was a consistent performer across the board, making off with various prizes at the One Show, the Andys and the Art Directors Club. The Nike work deserves the recognition; it's fresher and stronger than it was perhaps a year or two ago, when the whole world suddenly seemed to sour on the brand and the ubiquitous swoosh. To mix our campaigns: Nice going, Pierre!

4. Goodby Silverstein & Partners/SF

Down three positions from last year and handily beaten by Dan Wieden's team, Goodby Silverstein & Partners would seem to have slipped creatively. But there's no evidence of that on the Goodby reel, which has perhaps the highest likeability quotient in the business. What's not to like about the Crackerjack spots featuring really, really big new bags, or about the ongoing saga of Louie, the scheming and conniving Bud lizard? Tell it to the Cannes jury; in France, Goodby was sent packing with just a bronze Lion or two, causing the bump downward on our list. That's what you get for making fun of frogs.

5. Ogilvy Interactive, NY

What's an interactive agency doing in the Top 10? Winning just about every interactive award to be had, in a new-media blitzkrieg for the IBM "e-culture" campaign. Ogilvy Interactive and IBM collected three Cyber Lions at Cannes, including the Cyber Lion Grand Prix in both the Rich Media and Beyond the Banner categories; Gold, Silver and Bronze Pencils at the One Show Interactive; and three Clios, including the Grand Clio Interactive award and a Gold for IBM -- as well as a Silver for Tivoli. Not to mention a Distinctive Merit at the Andys, also for "e-culture." Ogilvy Interactive, a unit of OgilvyOne Worldwide, currently operates 22 full-service offices and recorded 600 percent growth last year with billings of $60 million. Rich Media indeed.

6. Lowe Howard-Spink, London

The naughty Lowe Howard-Spinkers, the blokes who put nuns in Diesel jeans last year, killed in Cannes. The dark "Litany" spot for The Independent newspaper captured both the Grand Prix and the Journalists' award. On a lighter but just as politically incorrect note, the penis envy of the Scalextric campaign also did well, garnering a gold lion. In "Sorry," a fair-haired dad is so happy to have a boy to play the racing game with, he overlooks the fact that his equally white wife has just given birth to a black baby. But then, boys will be boys.

7. DM9/DDB, sao paulo, Brazil

DDB's brilliant Brazilian irmão (that's brother in Portuguese) DM9 landed in 7th place and there's nary a TV spot in sight. At least this year, startling visuals seemed to be the stamp of this hot shop. The saucy "Hot Ketchup" ad for Parmalat took two gold lions at Cannes, as did "Widow" for Parmalat milk. It features a poodle in widow's wear, and a nasty-looking kitty that proves Parmalat milk gives you more energy. DM9 also scored a Gold Pencil, Silver ADC cube and a Silver Clio. Hot stuff.

8. TBWA GGT Simons Palmer, London

It's a Zenith goodbye to the L.A. office of TBWA/Chiat/Day (number two among U.S. agencies in 1998, conspicuously absent this year), and hullo to its London counterpart, TBWA GGT Simons Palmer. Their work isn't for prudes. For starters, there's the GrandPrix-winning print ad "Nipples" for Sony PlayStation (the one we wickedly altered on this month's cover). Also scoring well were some rather suggestive rocks for the Tate gallery, which garnered awards at Cannes, the One Show and the Andys. Another big winner this year was the eerily beautiful "Double Life" commercial for PlayStation. While not overtly sexual, it features lots of people of all ages, colors and creeds (often in their skivvys) talking about the exciting life they lead in their PlayStation world. Consider our nipples erect.

9. Arnold Communications, Boston

Up from the 10 spot on last year's list,which they backed onto thanks to the colorful, minimalist yet almost psychedelic work for the VolkswagenNew Beetle, Arnold continues to speed down the awards Autobahn. Total VW tally for '99: Three One Club Silvers, six Gold Andys and two Silver Clios. Arnold clearly has all the creative drivers it needs; our request would be, "Other award-winning work wanted." Meanwhile, we'll take the new Turbonium spot, which rocks.


Making its first appearance on the Zenith List, Mullen slips into the Top 10 thanks to the Victorinox Swiss Army knife print campaign. The work took four Golds and four Silvers at the One Show, winning in Newspaper, Magazine, Outdoor and Collateral categories. There must be a Pencil collector blade on the product, which is not much more fanciful a notion than the campaign itself: wryly simple ads offer the knife as a way to declaw a cat or break out of prison, among other uses. Mullen's outstanding "When I Grow Up" spot for -- "When I grow up I want to be a brownnose," etc. -- snared only a

In this article: