For the second year in a row, Wieden & Kennedy took the highest honor at Ad Age's A-List & Creativity Awards Gala. The event was held at Cipriani 42nd Street in Manhattan Monday night. See all of the 2019 A-List & Creativity Awards winners here.
The agency topped Ad Age’s annual A-List on the strength of culture-leading campaigns for Nike, KFC, Bud Light and OkCupid and strong revenue growth in its New York office. Its work with the sportwear brand for the 30th anniversary of “Just Do It” featured former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was sidelined by the league, but not by the brand, for speaking out about police violence against communities of color.
“Dream Crazy” also won the Creativity Award for Campaign of the Year. W&K continued expanding the madcap roster of “Colonels” for KFC and turned Bud Light's “Dilly Dilly” into a phrase heard in bars and in living rooms across the country—despite no one knowing what it actually means.
It's all about a commitment to striving to make great work," says Karrelle Dixon, managing director of Wieden & Kennedy Portland. "That's the desire, the mission that everyone comes into the office every day to do—to take work that is meaningful to the community that we have internally and to the world."
Goodby, Silverstein & Partners took the No. 2 spot on the A-List. The Omnicom agency landed agency-of-record partnerships with Pepsi, Liberty Mutual and BMW all within the space of 18 months and posted more than 20 percent growth in 2018.
"This is a business of love, not competition," says co-founder Jeff Goodby as he accepted the award. "That's what makes this stuff come out great every year."
Los Angeles-based Giant Spoon landed the No. 3 spot on the A-List. The agency recreated HBO’s sci-western show “Westworld” at SXSW in Austin, Texas. It also won clients including Netflix, WeWork, Stitch Fix and Glossier, helping to push the shop to a revenue increase of 76 percent.
No longer an an old-school PR firm, Edelman takes the No. 4 slot on the A-List. Brand marketing accounts for nearly a third of its revenue now. When NBC’s “This Is Us” killed a beloved character with a Crock-Pot, Edelman’s campaign kept distraught viewers from killing the brand.
At No. 5 on the A-List, TBWA worked with Serena Williams on a Gatorade spot celebrating motherhood, and its Media Arts Lab work with Apple spawned some of the best spots of the year, including “Welcome Home.” Directed by Spike Jonze and starring FKA Twigs, the spot won a Creativity Award for Craft of the Year.
Brooklyn-based Work & Co. made its debut at No. 6 on the A-List. The six-year-old agency had its best year ever, growing revenue 24 percent—all of it digital—and winning new clients including Mercedes, Gatorade, Ikea, Equinox and Cava.
At No. 7 on the A-List, FCB grew domestic revenue 16 percent and won more than 130 pitches, about 100 of which came from its health care network. The shop also created “The Whopper Detour” for Burger King, which hijacked McDonald’s locations to lure hungry customers away with burgers for a penny.
Anomaly is a familiar face on the A-List, having topped it in 2017. Clocking in at No. 8 this year, the agency went three for three on pitches, winning Ally Bank, Booking.com and Petco; it also rebranded Diageo’s Johnnie Walker as Jane Walker for International Women’s Day.
McCann is No. 9 on the A-List. It won a host of new clients, including Reckitt Benckiser’s Enfamil, Columbia Sportswear, Corning, Honeywell’s b-to-b account, Lane Bryant, TJX, LinkedIn and the San Francisco Giants. It also created one of the best campaigns of the year, the album “Universal Love,” which featured LGBTQ-friendly versions of famous love songs.
And 360i rounded out the top 10 agencies on the A-List, with 20 wins to its name. It continued to prove its AI chops with the Amazon Alexa skill “Westworld: The Maze,” which won the Creativity Award for Best Use of Voice Tech.
The best of the rest
Droga5, fresh off its acquisition by Accenture Interactive, was named Agency Innovator of the Year. Its Tourism Australia campaign featured a fake movie purportedly starring every Australian actor of note, which won a Creativity Award for Content Marketing of the Year. The agency continued its sobering “The Truth Is Hard” campaign for The New York Times, and it flipped a bit of the script when it turned IHOP into IHOb.
In-house Agency of the Year went to Chobani, which brought a non-dairy product line to market in five months and celebrated 10 years as a national brand with a new campaign that pushed household penetration to 37.7 percent.
Mother London was named International Agency of the Year on the strength of its “FCK” apology ad for KFC, a peace offering to customers left hungry when U.K. stores of the chicken chain ran out of…chicken. A campaign for Greenpeace was more serious but no less successful, and the agency won 15 new clients, including Sky, the Body Shop and Facebook.
Cashmere took Multicultural Agency of the Year, posting a revenue increase of 80.5 percent and winning the Jack in the Box social and PR account. BMW also named the shop its multicultural agency in the U.S.
Comeback Agency of the Year went to Initiative, after a full renovation begun in 2016 turned a 12.2 percent revenue drop in 2017 into an 8 percent increase in 2018. Most of the leadership is new as well, after careful poaching from outfits like Wieden & Kennedy, Refinery 29 and Hearts & Science.
FCB/Six took Data/Analytics Agency of the Year, winning work from Listerine, Aveeno, Neutrogena and Nicorette and becoming global customer relationship management AOR for Acuvue and the integrated AOR for BMW.
Collins won Design Agency of the Year. It lost no clients and won more than 20, including Equinox, HBO, Twitch, Nickelodeon, Instacart, Edgewell Brands and Robinhood, and it rebranded email marketing platform Mailchimp.
The Media Agency of the Year, MullenLowe Mediahub, used Foursquare data to push customers to Chipotle and integrated Netflix posts into actual real estate listings.
Unit 9 won Production Company of the Year for its work on video games for Nike and Honda and a new version of Candy Crush displayed on the side of a New York skyscraper.
TD Ameritrade’s Denise Karkos was named CMO of the Year. She led the brand in pursuing innovative and experimental ways to reach customers, like trading via Twitter and placing ads on blockchain.
And Kristen Cavallo, CEO of The Martin Agency, was named Executive of the Year for her handling of the ad industry’s first #MeToo scandal. Her changes at the agency resulted in one of the few all-female leadership teams, a wage audit and a 20 percent revenue increase, without losing any clients due to the scandal.
"We've got a lot of great ideas about student loan payback and equality hiring as well as growing the business end and hiring amazing talent," Cavallo says. "We've just dipped our toe into transformation and what progress looks like."