|Above is illustrator Robin Eley's rendering of the leaders of the A-List agencies.|
Welcome to Ad Age's Agency A-List, our look at the best marketing shops in 2008.
This year's edition marks the third time we've selected an A-List. Our previous format for choosing the cream of the agency world, in which we graded a number of agencies and selected an agency of the year, began to show its age when we realized that, thanks to Sarbanes-Oxley, we knew too little about the financial performance of many of the businesses we were grading. That format was also too narrowly focused on ad agencies -- and thus increasingly out of touch with a marketing world in which many of the best ideas don't have anything to do with ads.
While we still name an agency of the year, the A-List is meant to recognize that success in today's agency landscape comes in a lot of different shapes and sizes. As you'll see, the current group spans disciplines, from general-market ad agencies to digital experts to media and direct shops. And the agencies are both independent and owned by holding companies and they ranged from single-office shops to sprawling global networks.
But they also have a lot in common. The agencies chosen all measured up when it came to three key areas of performance. First, they all were creative in brand strategies and execution -- but also wildly imaginative when it came to envisioning where their creations could live. Second, and perhaps most important, the A-Listers were effective. Their programs led directly to measurable results for clients, always important but all the more so in a tough times like ours. And, finally, they were fast-growing, gobbling up new revenue from existing clients and triumphing in some of the biggest new-business pitches of the year.
We've also selected a second group of 10 shops that you should be keeping an eye on in 2009. This mix of established players and up-and-comers just narrowly missed the A-List cut.