A Note From the Editors

2010 Agency A-List: Observations on the Industry

Variety of Models Shows Advertisers Are Willing to Adapt

By Published on .

You've all heard the declarations: The agency business is dead, divorced from reality and has disenfranchised itself from the larger media and marketing community. Well, we're not buying that.

Sure, it faces significant challenges and we'll be the first to point those out. But we have found in this year's Agency A-List hope in the ad agency's ability to lead, innovate and service clients like nobody else can.

First of all, our staff has never seen so many agencies submit, and so many worthy of being honored. We can safely say it was the toughest deliberation process our team of agency reporters and editors has ever had, one that began in late November and, in some cases, went on through last week.

Wieden & Kennedy took home the top honors from both Ad Age and Creativity this year, but all of the agencies that make up the resulting list are a reflection of the way the communications and advertising business has changed. The most creative, needle-moving marketing ideas now come from a range of geographies -- you'll find Austin, Boston, Columbus, Detroit, Minneapolis, Portland and San Francisco represented in this package, as well as New York. The mix includes a range of models -- from publishers and crowdsourcing agencies to fully integrated creative-media shops, from multicultural shops to PR firms, from stand-alone media to digital agencies. And you'll see a wide range of holding companies -- as well as some shops that claim no corporate backer.

At the same time, we were thrilled to discover the resilience of the large traditional agencies that form the backbone of this industry, with many of them cropping up on our lists for turning in solid performances last year.

While we get knocked for being U.S.-centric often, and this report is focused largely on domestic agency results, we have again highlighted the best of what we saw in 2010 around the globe. For a second consecutive year, an Argentine shop has taken home International Agency of the Year honors, raising the bar for other global ad markets. Our runners-up hail from New Zealand, South Africa and London. And our Ad Age China Agency of the Year is DDB Group China.

Creativity this year has put together an A-List of shops for the first time too -- check them out. Horizon Media demonstrated the importance snappy yet strategic media-planning can have for companies such as Google. And our comeback agency of the year, Arnold, to put it in movie terms, was the sleeper hit of 2010 and will be stiff competition in new-business pitches this year.

Congrats to this year's winners. Nearly a month into 2011, we're already looking forward to seeing what you do next.

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