How and Why We Picked the Consumer as Agency of the Year

An Editor's Note on the Process

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Most years, we meet just once to pick Agency of the Year. Reporters arrive with their shortlists, stacks of examples of the shops' work, details of their new-business wins and evidence of their thought leadership. We discuss, we vote.

Ad Age editor Jonah Bloom explains why the consumer was selected as this year's Agency of the Year. | ALSO: Comment on this issue in the 'Your Opinion' box below.

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When we met to pick the '06 winner, it looked as if it would be business as usual. We raised the idea of giving the honor to consumers, but that intriguing notion was drowned out by the usual arguments for a handful of shops -- Crispin, Goodby, TBWA, Saatchi. When a winner emerged in the form of DraftFCB, we were too busy constructing and deconstructing arguments for the agency to remember we'd considered a different approach.

DraftFCB had a compelling story. The mere existence of the newly merged agency was a bold move to try to marry the scale and creative chops of a famous ad shop with the data savvy of a fast-growing direct-marketing agency. What's more, the experiment had just yielded Wal-Mart's $580 million ad account, the most sought-after in review last year.

Wal-Mart debacle
But just days later, Ad Age uncovered Wal-Mart's firing of marketing chief Julie Roehm and its decision to reopen the review she'd overseen-sans DraftFCB. Cue Agency of the Year meeting No. 2.

We threw around more agency names but kept coming back to that idea of consumer as agency. The arguments piled up: Lonelygirl15; the Mentos/Coke experiments; TBWA London asking the public for ideas; recognition of the importance of consumer-to-consumer communication; marketers' oft-stated belief that the consumer is in control. Of course, consumers aren't agencies, but they have become arguably the most effective creators and distributors of commercial content. If we were ever going to do something different with our selection, this was the year to do it.

Of course, it didn't end there. The Sunday after that meeting, I got a call that went something like: "Time's done it; they picked you." Even I'm not cocky enough to think I'd seen off Kim Jong Il for this year's honors, so I let out a sigh and prepared for another meeting.

What do you think?
This time, however, we stuck to our guns. Time was picking consumer-generated content over world leaders, dictators with nuclear weapons and people who are trying to save our broken planet. We are picking it over some other content creators. We might end up looking derivative, but we felt we were right. And we still do. But we look forward to you, our consumers, telling us what you think.
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