Advertising Age International and Leo Burnett Co. have compiled the first-ever ranking of the top 20 creative agency networks, based on Burnett's database of award-winning commercials at 45 leading contests around the world during 1995.
The best-performing networks all had a number of far-flung star offices that produced great work for a range of clients.
Twelve cities were home to the highest scoring offices for the 20 most creative networks, reflecting the rise of creative centers like Barcelona, SÌo Paulo and Stockholm. Only the two Japanese networks, Dentsu and Hakuhodo, had their most creative agencies in Asia.
LONDON GETS TOP HONORS
London was the top creative city for five networks, compared to New York for three networks. Other top creative cities in the U.S. were Chicago and Southfield, Mich.
BBDO was the only network that had two of its three star agencies-New York and Los Angeles-in the U.S.
International ads done in the U.S. for clients such as PepsiCo and Apple Computer and in the U.K. for Volvo Car U.K. Ltd. by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, the network's other star agency, gave BBDO a big edge over rivals with 158 total awards.
"BBDO is kind of different from other networks," said Donald Gunn, the Burnett director of creative resources worldwide, in explaining the creative ranking. "It didn't become a network based on following multinational clients like Colgate, Lever, Procter & Gamble. BBDO didn't have any multinational clients as such and became a network quite late."
Instead of opening its own offices, BBDO initially took minority stakes in independent local agencies in the 1970s and 1980s.
"BBDO went around the world when everyone else had their networks established and were able to pick off creative agencies like Abbott Mead Vickers in the U.K., Clemenger in Australia, FHV in Holland, Team in Germany, Colenso in New Zealand Ratto in Argentina," Mr. Gunn said.
DOES AGENCY SIZE MATTER?
Despite finishing far ahead of all other agencies in creativity, BBDO ranks only fifth in size among the world's top agency brands, according to Advertising Age figures. Many of the other networks also won a disproportionate number of creative awards for their size.
DDB Needham was the second most creative network with 95 awards but is only seventh when ranked by gross income, according to Ad Age figures.
And Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide and Young & Rubicam rank third and fourth by creativity with scores of 83 and 80 but are only ninth and 16th by gross income. Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising and TBWA Chiat/Day also ranked higher in the creative league than their sizes would indicate.
"Advertising that gets awards and works well has to be well-focused and have one key concept," Mr. Gunn said. "You can't throw in the kitchen sink and a lot of secondary points."
Japanese networks Dentsu and Hakuhodo won very few creative awards in relation to their size. As the world's largest agency, Dentsu dwarfs the other networks in size but ranks only eighth in creativity. Hakuhodo is the world's fourth-largest agency but barely squeaks into the creative ranking in the 19th spot.
It is a reflection of their poorly developed international networks that most of Dentsu and Hakuhodo's creative awards come from their Tokyo and Osaka offices. Neither city ranks as a star office for any other network.
McCann-Erickson Worldwide is second only to Dentsu in size but ranked 12th in creative awards won, followed by 13th-ranked J. Walter Thompson Co., the third-largest in size.
If agencies without networks were included in the creative ranking, London-based Bartle Bogle Hegarty would rank seventh with 56 awards and Portland, Ore.-based Wieden & Kennedy would be 12th with 45.
The most-awarded commercial of 1995 was by a non-network agency. Bartle's pan-European "Drugstore" spot for Levi Strauss & Co.'s Levi's 501 jeans won 33 prizes, an amazing feat for a campaign that has been using atmospheric, boy-meets-girl, '50s-style spots for a decade.
Most of the agencies without networks rely heavily on one client for their awards. More than half of Bartle's 1995 awards were for the "Drugstore" spot, and all but four of Wieden's wins were for Nike. Cliff Freeman & Partners won most of its prizes for Little Caesars Pizza ads, which run only in the U.S.
Both Lintas' and TBWA International's rankings benefited from the agencies' recent mergers with highly creative U.S. shops that lacked their own international networks.
Ammirati & Puris added luster to the Lintas network. And TBWA operates as one unit now with Chiat/Day, which failed to build an international operation except for a single London office. That office was sold to local management after the TBWA deal. The Venice, Calif.-based former Chiat/Day headquarters ranks as TBWA's second most award-winning office after Johannesburg, where TBWA Hunt Lascaris is a past Ad Age International Agency of the Year.