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Small Agency Conference and Awards

International Small Agency of the Year, Gold: Deportivo

Stockholm Shop Turned Sweat Into Drinking Water for UNICEF and Devised a Social Alarm Clock for Philips

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As a company that believes innovation is the best form of communication, Deportivo lives up to its own hype. The Swedish agency invented a machine that turned sweat into drinking water for UNICEF; devised a social alarm clock for Philips; and integrated Facebook Graph Search into a campaign for MTV.

"We've found that businesses are prepared to pay to get people talking about their brands," said Mattias Ronge, co-founder and chief strategy officer. "We always start with earned media at the core of every campaign, which is what distinguishes us from ad agencies. You can amplify a message by paying, but it has to be earned from the start or it won't fly."

This drive to find new ways to reach consumers reflects the PR and digital backgrounds of Deportivo's three founders, all of whom are creatives by trade. Mr. Ronge started the agency in 2010 with his brother, Stefan, who is chief creative officer and describes himself on Twitter as "genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist." The third partner, Anders Hallen, is head of innovation.

For the Philips Wake Up Light -- which brightens gradually to help sleepers wake up more naturally -- Deportivo created the social alarm clock app, which lets people join in with friends' wake-up times and compete to be the first out of bed.

UNICEF's "Sweat for Water" campaign highlighted that 780 million people lack access to clean water by inventing the sweat machine, which turned sweat into drinkable water. For every glass of sweat-turned-water that participants drank, sponsors supplied UNICEF with water purification tablets. In a week, 2,300 people had swallowed sweat, earning 23 million liters of purified water and reaching 100 million people on Twitter alone.

Stockholm-based Deportivo, which has a knack for creating international efforts, used the new Facebook Graph Search feature while it was still in beta form in its "Catch Steve Angello" campaign to launch an MTV show called "Catfish." A catfish is someone hiding behind a false profile on Facebook, so Deportivo hid Mr. Angello -- a DJ with Swedish House Mafia -- on Facebook, and challenged contestants to find him. Tens of thousands of contestants took up the game of hide and seek, which spread across 24 countries. The TV show's ratings were 126% above the channel's average.

Deportivo has a staff of 20, and clients include Philips, MasterCard and UNICEF. Revenue grew by 50% in 2013. Many of the agency's campaigns are international in scope.

"We have had a lot of interest from international clients because we can do something from Sweden that can be seen all over the world," Mr. Ronge said. "When you get down to it, all human beings want to laugh, to be amazed, to feel important, to be engaged and to master new skills."

Edelman bought the agency in June 2014 and merged it with Edelman's Stockholm office to form Edelman Deportivo. For the period of the Small Agency Awards, Deportivo was independent and so was eligible to enter.

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