1. MOTHER, NEW YORK
Mother, New York, the U.S. hub of London-based independent shop, has long been known for its quirky work for brands such as Johnson & Johnson's K-Y lubricant and a burgeoning line of agency-made goods such as candles, books and flasks. But last year marked a turning point for the agency, one in which Mother focused less on vanity projects and instead churned out impressive, varied work for clients (for more on this, read Creativity's Agency of the Year story
). For New Balance it was launching a new line of lifestyle shoes; for Dell it was creating a laptop design studio; and for Target a soaring Times Square billboard that later was fashioned into handbags. The shop also stole business from big players, like Cadbury's Sour Patch kids brand from JWT
and expanded its events offering, helping plan concerts for Britney Spears and Lady Gaga.
2. DEUTSCH, LOS ANGELES
Losing a car account is one of the most-devastating things that can happen to an agency. But to quickly replace it with a far sexier car brand is a special feat—and exactly what Deutsch
's Los Angeles office pulled off in 2009 when it brought home the $200 million Volkswagen of America account, succeeding Crispin Porter & Bogusky. Deutsch was left open in the category after troubled General Motors nixed its Saturn brand. VW's top marketer, Tim Ellis, invited the shop into its pitch, during which Deutsch presented the carmaker with "a platform that we felt was head and shoulders above the other competitors," Mr. Ellis has said. We'll soon find out; Deutsch's debut work for VW breaks during the Super Bowl next month. Also in 2009, mobile phone maker HTC tapped Deutsch as its first consumer agency and the resulting work helped put the brand on the map. Deutsch, LA, was spared from the tumult that rocked Deutsch's New York office when Interpublic merged Deutsch with Lowe
, making it the North American hub of the Lowe & Partners network.
3. RESOURCE INTERACTIVE
Like many agencies, Resource Interactive
had a difficult 2008. But it rebounded with a vengeance, turning 2009 into what Nancy Kramer and Kelley Mooney -- the shop's founder-CEO and chief experience officer, respectively -- rank the best in the agency's 28-year history. The Columbus, Ohio-based digital shop raked in $41 million in revenue last year, up from $36 million in 2008, according to Ad Age's DataCenter
. More than a quarter of '09 revenues came from new clients, but it grew organically too, nearly doubling business from existing client Coca-Cola and P&G brands Clairol and Gillette Venus. Resource's growth has been aided by its prowess in the consumer-packaged goods sector, and those companies' new-found commitment to digital marketing. The agency's CPG clients, which also include Scotts-Miracle Gro, Bush's Baked Beans and Lean Cuisine, drove the agency's roughly 30% growth in headcount this year -- and its opening of a Cincinnati outpost to service P&G.
4. JUNIPER PARK
Toronto-based Juniper Park works with Red Cross, Eos skin-care products and the Chicago Tribune, and is one of too-few shops led by a woman -- Jill Nykoliation, one of Ad Age's 2009 Women to Watch. But perhaps most watched are Juniper Park's stellar campaigns for Frito-Lay. To combat the perception of Lay's potato chips as over-processed, the offshoot of Omnicom's BBDO
Worldwide created a campaign underscoring that the product is made from just three ingredients: potatoes, sunflower oil and salt, with the tagline "Happiness is simple." Another effort for Frito combined female-targeted brands such as Flat Earth, Baked Lays, Smart Food and 100-Calorie Packs in one platform promoted by creating content. "Only in a Woman's World" was a web-based comedy series following the rituals of everyday life. According to Juniper Park, there have been over 10 million views of the webisodes, and more than 5,400 subscribed to follow the campaign on Twitter.
finds itself on our "Next in Line" list for the third-straight year. In 2009, C-K added Zicam, Edward Jones, Crocs, Avodart and Direct General to its stable of brands. Its steady new-business performance helped the independent agency eek out a low-single-digit revenue gain amid a brutal business climate. C-K got results for its clients, too, making Porsche's Panamera the company's most successful new-model launch ever despite a dreadful environment for luxury-car marketers. It did so thanks in part to a heavily targeted, mostly digital effort that artfully presented the first four-door sports-car Porsche as a logical evolution of the performance automaker's brand.
So why is C-K still waiting in line rather than inching toward the head of it? That's largely due to trouble on its signature account: Crown Imports' Corona Extra brand. After 16 years of consecutive growth, Corona sales have sputtered for the past three. Crown left Corona Extra with C-K, but pulled media and creative chores on Corona Light.
6. GRUPO GALLEGOS
boosted billings by 30% in 2009 as the independent Hispanic shop's clients Comcast, Target, California Milk Processor Board and Foster Farm increased their market share -- and spending -- with Latino consumers. Always one of the Hispanic market's most creative and visionary thinkers, Los Angeles-based Grupo came up with new insights that helped clients grow in a tough year. For Comcast, Grupo tapped into Hispanics' professed love of technology. For Foster Farms, Grupo revealed the dirty secret that cheaper supermarket brands plump their chickens with water and salt, making premium-price Foster Farms chickens the better buy.
In 2009, R/GA continued its trajectory from a digital boutique into a full-service agency with digital at the core. It was appointed digital agency of record for mega-retailer Walmart and for fast feeder Taco Bell. It also picked up global digital duties for MasterCard, which it will service via new offices in Sao Paulo and Singapore in 2010. There was one dark cloud, though, an app it created for PepsiCo's Amp that promoted picking up chicks in bars. Riddled with female stereotypes, it offended many-a-lady on the interweb. The Interpublic agency closed out 2009 on a positive note by scoring the creative -- not just digital -- account for Ameriprise from Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi
At the start of 2009, Farfar's parent, Aegis Group's Isobar
, won Nokia's global digital advertising accounts in partnership with Interpublic's R/GA. Farfar had already been working with Nokia in Sweden for several years and was seen as a key factor in the win. The resulting "Good Things" campaign, promoting Nokia's Ovi navigation service, was manifested in central London with the creation of a 50-meter tall interactive signpost. Run by a group of laid-back Swedes who proudly stick to a 40-hour working week, the shop is known worldwide for creating fun, entertaining ideas that marry humanity and humor with technology, and don't need bought media to be seen.
In 2009, while doing inventive work for its clients, MediaVest
racked up nearly $1.5 billion in new business, rivaling the tallies of other heavyweight agencies and making it the largest shop in the Starcom
MediaVest operation, based on revenues. MediaVest's wins included Bristol-Myers Squibb, Mars-Wrigley's consolidated account and THQ Gaming. The THQ win filled the void left by the agency's only significant loss, Activision. It also won the $250 million consolidated Comcast business. And with Comcast's purchase of NBC, MediaVest's roster now includes another market segment leader to go along with the likes of Coke, Kraft, Walmart and Starbucks. In terms of organic growth, the agency also added assignments for Coca-Cola's Glaceau brand, CapitalOne Digital and Heineken Digital.
10. RICHARDS GROUP
Take a look at Richards Group's creative reel and it's a far cry from the gorgeous work produced by the Wieden & Kennedys and Goodby Silverstein & Partners
of the adworld. The Dallas-based agency has little -- other than prized Effies awarded for effective campaigns -- to display in its trophy cases. But in 2009, the largest independent agency in America had much to brag about. Despite clients' shrinking marketing budgets, it managed to grow revenues by a couple percent to $170 million. It won a dozen new accounts, including Georgia Power, the Yachts of Seabourn and, most notably, the shop was named to Chrysler's new roster of creative agencies to handle work for the Dodge Ram truck brand. Richards' philosophy is that no account is considered too small, and the majority of its clients are under $2 million in billings.