Digital A-List 2008

Digital A-List 2008: Next in Line

From Rising Star Tribal DDb to ... 'Whopper Freakout'?

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In the end, we chose 10. But there was plenty of debate over who should make this year's A-List. Maybe it's no surprise that a burgeoning global power like Tribal DDB would come close, but a purveyor of flame-broiled burgers? These players' remarkable forays in the digital realm show new media's not just for tech companies.

In 2007, R/GA continued to do smart web development that, in the best cases, made the leap from the digital to the physical world.

Under CEO Bob Greenberg, the highly recognized agency brought Nike's revolutionary customization concept into Niketown stores in New York and London, and it pulled off an integrated campaign for Nokia's Nseries mobile devices that bled into everything from guerrilla marketing and out of home to viral videos.
Bob Greenberg
R/GA optimized Barnes & Noble's e-commerce game and helped drive engagement around the Nike Plus running site with the launch of a tool that allows users to challenge each other.

The Interpublic Group of Cos.-owned agency saw some progress in the build-out of its international network, adding a number of clients to its London office, including S.C. Johnson & Son. It also established a West Coast beachhead in San Francisco.

Most important, growth in the flagship New York office continued, with Sunglass Hut, Barnes & Noble and Discover joining. R/GA kept growing with core clients such as L'Oréal and Johnson & Johnson.

Most of the agency's senior staff hires were made in London, but it did pull off at least one coup in New York with the poaching of JWT and Wieden & Kennedy vet Robert Rasmussen as lead creative on the ever-important Nike account.
-- Matthew Creamer
Is Schematic a technology company or a creative shop? Does it really matter? As marketers have begun to think about advertising differently -- not just as pushing messages out to consumers but as providing value and functionality and becoming a media vehicle in its own right -- the shop has found itself in the right place at the right time.

Trevor Kaufman
Schematic, whose technology department is as big as its creative department, is comfortable tackling everything from video work to the heavy lifting of designing e-commerce and transactional sites.

WPP Group purchased Schematic last September, and it's had an integral part in pitching the holding company's big wins of late: the $2 billion, annual AT&T account and the multiyear, $4.5 billion Dell contract. Schematic, under CEO Trevor Kaufman, has been heavily involved behind the scenes with WPP's build-out of a Dell-only agency and, although part of WPP Digital, works closely with Group M to help create original content.

This summer, Schematic's work will be seen by the millions who tune in online to the Olympics, via the Silverlight player it developed for Microsoft Corp. and NBC. The WPP acquisition also is fueling a rapid international expansion, starting in Europe. Schematic has a small but growing London office and will have a presence in Asia starting this year.
-- Abbey Klaassen
Digital shops are great at designing clever web creative and microsites, optimizing campaigns based on performance, and managing thousands of search keywords at a time.

Matt Freeman
What they don't often do well is branding, which is why an agency such as Tribal DDB stands out.

As Advertising Age put it earlier this year, when it named Tribal DDB Global Agency Network of the Year: "It's an agency that, while expert in most things digital, is no less creative and collaborative and brand-savvy for that technical know-how. ... Tribal today has become a legitimate rival to the global networks, recognized by its clients as a brand partner with the new-media savvy many marketers crave."

With 44 full-service offices in 25 countries and a collective staff of 1,200, Worldwide CEO Matt Freeman and his forces represent one of the only digital shops that can truly claim to have global reach.

In 2007, the Omnicom Group-owned agency grew revenue 40% to $200 million, with 55% coming from outside the U.S., according to Ad Age estimates.

That includes $25 million to $30 million in revenue from new business, including work for Lowe's, Nokia, Kraft Foods and Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. in the U.S.; PepsiCo and Deutsche Telekom in Europe; and McDonald's Corp. and Philips in Asia.
-- Abbey Klaassen
WPP's Group M has sharpened its focus on MEC Interaction, more than other Group M properties, to make it a digital specialist in media. The investment has yielded big results. MEC Interaction handles more than $660 million in digital billings worldwide and has been a key part of Mediaedge:cia's massive new-business year, including the $2 billion-plus AT&T consolidation, Citibank and Monster.

Alan Schanzer
Led in North America by Alan Schanzer, MEC Interaction consistently produces innovative work that takes advantage of all emerging media. One example is a recent campaign for Xerox Corp., where MEC partnered with Wired to showcase the marketer's cross-media publishing capabilities. Wired subscribers could customize their own July issue of the magazine and create a printable, Xerox-branded Wired cover. More than 11,000 cover entries were submitted in four days.

But MEC Interaction is about more than just smart campaigns. The agency also is a leader in developing research tools such as DigiFaces, which generates consumer insights from blogs and social media. The first project using DigiFaces, Digital Moms, invited mothers to blog about how they engage with technology. DigiFaces has been so successful here that local versions have rolled out in China, Germany, Spain and the U.K.
-- Megan McIlroy
Forget the management change, product overhauls and stock upheaval that have roiled Hewlett-Packard Co. in the past few years. Some of the most dramatic changes at HP have come in the digital realm.

Satjiv Chahil
Budgets have been reallocated to the point where more than one-third of those dollars are spent online. They've flowed into innovative, online-first or online-only marketing. The upshot: HP has grabbed significant mind share and a reputation for digital cool.

Its efforts include last year's extension of the "Hands" campaign that expanded the roles of comedian Jerry Seinfeld and tennis star Serena Williams from TV spots into online ads (including a mash-up where Ms. Williams was joined by "Jumper" star Hayden Christensen).

HP also put a lot of weight online to support printing and imaging with celebrities such as Gwen Stefani.

Behind HP's transition from old world to new are former Apple marketing guru Satjiv Chahil and adman David Roman, another Apple veteran, plus agencies Goodby, Silverstein & Partners and McCann Erickson Worldwide.

Along with besting Dell in global PC sales, analysts agree HP has revised its image with consumers. But the question remains, in a slow economy, is hip and trendy enough to keep driving significant sales?
-- Beth Snyder Bulik
It's a rare event for an anniversary celebration to generate much buzz among today's jaded consumers, but Burger King Corp.'s nod to 50 years of the Whopper did just that by denying customers the burger and showing their resulting consternation on TV and online.

Brian Gies
Crispin, Porter & Bogusky, Miami, was charged with devising innovative takes on consumers' love of the iconic burger. Creative Director Rob Reilly and his team came up with the documentary-style "Whopper Freakout," in which BK customers were told the burger had been discontinued. One wistful man tells the camera that without the Whopper, Burger King might as well change its name to "Burger Queen." Brian Gies, VP-marketing impact at Burger King, led the charge on the marketer's side.

Burger King, which hit the viral world four years ago with its Subservient Chicken, put additional footage online at The fast feeder reports that the site has gotten 3.6 million views. ComScore says the site drew 250,000 unique visitors in December but fell to 172,000 in January.

It all paid off. BK CEO John Chidsey told analysts on a January earnings call the effort led to a double-digit spike in Whopper sales.
-- Emily Bryson York
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