Leo Burnett shoots to top of '01 Gunn Report

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In a surprise creative leap, Bcom3 Group's Leo Burnett Worldwide topped the 2001 ranking of agency networks by creative awards won worldwide as tallied by the Gunn Report. To achieve this feat, Burnett toppled the Omnicom Group agency networks that previously dominated the top slots.

The report, to be released this week, shows Burnett climbing from the No. 4 spot in 2000 and No. 6 in 1999, pushing last year's winner, BBDO Worldwide, to No. 2 and DDB, ranked first in 1999 and second in 2000, to third place.

The Gunn Report was started by Donald Gunn, an indefatigable tracker of award-winning ads, after he retired three years ago as VP-creative services at Burnett. To compile his annual rankings, Mr. Gunn used an intricate point system to log the winners of 31 TV and cinema awards shows and 20 print competitions-including the leading ad shows in 17 key countries-for the 12 months ended Oct. 31, 2001.

About one-quarter of Burnett's wins came from its London office, which was the second most-awarded agency office in the world. Last year, Burnett's London agency was only No. 27; in 1999 the U.K. office didn't even make the top 50. Burnett's sudden leap to second place in the U.K. had a lot to do with suddenly-famous U.K. Creative Director Mark Tutssel, who is moving to Chicago as vice chairman-deputy creative director to lead U.S. creative efforts.

In the last two years, the winning network has relied heavily on a single blockbuster ad campaign that swept award shows worldwide. Last year, BBDO had a universal winner in the Guinness work entered in awards shows by its London office, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO. In 1999, a BMP DDB campaign, also from London, humorously highlighted the affordability of Volkswagen's Polo car and scored most of DDB's points.

But "this year, there was no blockbuster," Mr. Gunn said. Besides the stellar performance of its London office, Burnett was the only network that had six agencies ranked among the top 50 agencies, in London, Madrid, Sydney, Oslo, Warsaw and Mexico City.

Another upset in this year's creative race is Dentsu's surprise finish as the most-awarded agency, based on the performance of its offices in Japan. Although Dentsu is by far the world's biggest agency and produces most of its work in Japan, the agency has never topped creative rankings. Mr. Gunn noted that Dentsu picked up almost 60% of the awards at Japan's top ACC awards show and was the biggest winner at both pan-Asian ad shows, AdFest and Asian AA. It also turned in a decent performance at several U.S. competitions like the One Show.

Mr. Gunn noted that U.S. agencies that fell the farthest in this year's ranking are Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., and Fallon Worldwide, Minneapolis and New York. In 2000, those two agencies ranked second and third respectively among the top 50 agencies. This year, Wieden just missed the top 50 and Fallon is No. 39.

Cliff Freeman & Partners' hilarious Fox Sports TV spots for the NBA, starring inept white basketball players Alan and Jerome trying to act hip, was the single most-awarded TV campaign in the world in 2001, according to the Gunn Report. The same Cliff Freeman and Fox Sports team produced the ludicrous enactments of made-up local sports like Turkish cliff diving tied for second place with Burnett's John West salmon spot from the U.K., in which a John West fisherman wrestles a bear for the freshest fish.

Among print ads, the biggest award-grabber is the Volkswagen of America "Look, there's a ..." campaign by Havas Advertising's Arnold Worldwide, Boston, in which people ignore dramatic sights but spot Volkswagens of different colors. Second place goes to a U.K. campaign for VW's Beetle. Not surprisingly, Mr. Gunn said that Volkswagen was the most-awarded advertiser for the third year in a row, followed by Nike, Sony Electronics Corp., News Corp.'s Fox Sports and Anheuser-Busch Cos.' Budweiser.

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