Special Report: Agency A-List
Ad Age Agency A-List 10 to Watch
2010 Proved to Be a Groundbreaking Year of Innovation, Growth and New-Business Gains, but We Expect the Best Is Yet to Come for Them
1. ROSETTAThe last independent digital agency of scale was a bit of a silent giant throughout 2010, growing revenue 24% to $215 million. But considering its new muscle in mobile and continuing growth, Hamilton, N.J.-based Rosetta is one we're betting will be a strong player in 2011. While many of its competitors were getting snapped up by publishers and holding companies, Rosetta has been one of the ones doing the buying, acquiring shops that mesh with its core technology and customer-relationship-marketing chops. It has crept up the list of the biggest U.S. digital agencies, ranking as No. 9 by Ad Age's latest count. In 2010, it added mobile services when it acquired 215-person Level Studios. Besides getting bigger, Rosetta's creative prowess is really beginning to show. For paper-goods manufacturer Crane & Co., it crafted an e-commerce site and reimagined its old-school "Blue Book" for etiquette for the 21st century as a Facebook app. The result? An 18% lift in sales.
-- KUNUR PATEL
2.OGILVYAfter laying the groundwork under CEO Miles Young, Ogilvy's North American transformation finally felt tangible in 2010 with Bayer, CDW, Citizens Bank, Fanta, Kimberly-Clark, Nestl? Purina, Ikea and UPS all entrusting their brands to the WPP shop. The new clients led to revenue growth of 10%, and the changes at Ogilvy are proving alluring to top talent, as the agency attracted Steve Simpson, longtime creative at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, to take the reins as chief creative officer at Ogilvy North America. We're betting the agency will really see growth, though, through an increasing focus on consulting practices and its digital-video practice. Ogilvy last year set up a special unit to help marketers like IBM and Nestl? build YouTube channels and other online video content, and YouTube hailed the agency ahead of its own plans for monetizing video.
-- RUPAL PAREKH
3.VICTORS & SPOILSWhen Harley-Davidson split with Carmichael Lynch, its traditional ad agency of 31 years, the iconic motorcycle-maker said it didn't want another agency of record. Victors & Spoils saw opportunity. The Boulder, Colo., shop, founded in October 2009 by former Crispinites John Winsor and Evan Fry and former Massive exec Claudia Batten, took a chance by offering its "creative department" -- a crowd of more than 3,200 folks worldwide -- a mere $5,000 for any idea Harley would eventually buy. The risk paid off when the marketer selected from a batch of hundreds an idea that will become the foundation of Harley's 2011 campaign. Others that are experimenting with the crowdsourced creative from Victors & Spoils include Dish Network, Virgin America, General Mills, Oakley and Discovery. In short? Victors & Spoils is worth watching because it's disrupting the model and delivering work clients are satisfied with -- and doing it for a lot cheaper than most agencies.
-- RUPAL PAREKH
4. LAPIZWith clever work such as its campaign for Bounty paper towels, it's no surprise Leo Burnett's wholly-owned U.S. Hispanic shop Lapiz is becoming a favorite on Procter & Gamble's roster. With its English and Spanish radio spots that imagined a battle fought by foods that cause messy spills, the Chicago-based agency picked up two Gold Lions at Cannes and won Best of Show at Ad Age's Hispanic Creative Advertising Awards. Revenue was up 30% in 2010 thanks to an impressive new-business year that saw Lapiz win the Hispanic accounts for U.S. Cellular, Choice Hotels, Sara Lee, Koleston hair color and, in a P&G reshuffle of multicultural assignments, Mr. Clean, Vick's, Dawn and a new dishwashing liquid, Gain Dish. We won't be surprised if the shop finds itself in the drivers' seat on more campaigns.
-- LAUREL WENTZ
5. MEKANISMMarketers looking for the next hot digital boutique should keep an eye on San Francisco-based Mekanism. In the past five years, it's been growing steadily, but that pace picked up in 2010, when it more than doubled headcount and grew revenue nearly 40% to $25 million. In the process, it has been working more with clients directly, rather than through their agency relationships. The shop picked up work for marketers including Pepsi, Gap, Charles Schwab and eBay in 2010. No matter the brand or target audience, it manages to be of-the-moment, hip and digitally on cue. For example, for eBay, Mekanism created the Samantha Bee holiday campaign, which the web company calls its largest social-media effort to date. The comedienne's online series mimicked "Christmas-freakout" videos found on YouTube and encouraged viewers to upload their own.
-- KUNUR PATEL
6. CARATFor Aegis' Carat, 2010 brought to a close a three-year rebuilding process that started back in 2008 when Martin Cass was tasked with injecting some new life into the agency's U.S. operation. Consider Carat reinvigorated: In 2010, the agency increased revenue 17.5% and increased billings 24%. The double-digit increases stemmed from an impressive new-business performance, which saw Carat early in the year pick up the Beiersdorf account and end 2010 by nabbing Red Bull, Diageo and Relativity Media. It started out 2011 by picking up Home Depot's U.S. TV, radio and digital business. Some of Carat's successful campaigns last year included Adidas work centered around the World Cup, and work for Gillette's Fusion ProGlide and Reebok. Media shops should take note that Carat intends to continue the momentum it has generated, and will likely be a fierce competitor next year.
-- MICHAEL BUSH
7. JOHANNES LEONARDOTake a close look at the world's biggest holding company, WPP, and you'll find that some of the most cutting-edge work is being produced by one of its smallest, lowest-profile shops. Creative startup Johannes Leonardo launched in 2007 and since then, the shop has twice been recognized for producing the best creative across the entire WPP network. The agency has quickly graduated from working on smaller brands like retailer Daffy's to a robust client roster that includes Coca-Cola, GE and Google. In 2010, it partnered with Google Creative Lab on "Demo Slam," a web-based branding campaign to promote the search engine and its innovations, such as Google Mobile voice search, Google Goggles and Google Translate. Rather than subjecting consumers to mundane tech demos, Johannes Leonardo's approach engaged consumers by showing off the possibilities of the products, leading to more than 2.8 million page views within four weeks of the campaign launch.
-- RUPAL PAREKH
8. MEREDITH INTEGRATED MARKETINGThe first major agency unit housed within a print publisher is coming of age. It matured enough that Chrysler named Meredith Integrated Marketing its social-media and CRM agency of record at the end of 2009 after a competitive pitch. That set the stage for 2010, when Meredith extended beyond custom publishing for clients into social media, mobile, customer-relationship management and data and analytics. After an acquisition last summer, the agency unit also boasts one of the hottest mobile shops in its artillery with the Hyperfactory. Meredith was also named to the rosters of Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Mitsubishi and Diageo in 2010. The unit now boasts $176 million from marketing services in 2009, up more than 12% from the year prior, according to Ad Age DataCenter.
-- KUNUR PATEL
9. PHDAt the tail end of 2010, Omnicom Group's PHD won two mega-media accounts: GlaxoSmithKline's $1.4 billion U.S. account and -- despite a hotly contested review -- kept the Gap's $500 million global media assignment. It also created award-winning campaigns that year for HBO and its shows "True Blood," "Boardwalk Empire" and "Eastbound and Down." Internally, the agency set up Drum, a content-creation studio that specializes in the creation of apps, augmented-reality games and videos. And it brought in a new leader. Scott Hagedorn left his post as U.S. CEO of PHD to lead Annalect Group, a digital and data-analytics agency within Omnicom Media Group. His successor, Andrew McLean, the former worldwide chief business-development officer at WPP's Group M, is intent on making sure PHD returns to the new-business circuit -- and wins big -- in 2011.
-- MICHAEL BUSH
10. HUGEThe Interpublic digital shop had a blowout year that started with the much-hyped digital execution of Pepsi Refresh. Huge built the social-media voting platform for the beverage giant, which has been doling out grants to the most popular community projects posted to the site. Brooklyn-based Huge has also taken on new work from Target , L'Or?al Group and Unilever. The gains helped the agency clear more than $60 million in 2010 revenue, up an impressive 50% from the year prior, and it more than doubled in headcount since Interpublic took a majority stake in 2008. It has 300 employees today and recently opened offices in London, Stockholm and Rio de Janeiro. Late last year, Interpublic announced a "substantial financial investment," estimated between $8 million and $10 million, to help Huge expand in Brazil, China, Singapore and Japan.
-- KUNUR PATEL