On July 27, Ad Age announced the winners of our 14th annual Small Agency Awards. The program recognizes independent shops that stand out for their solid business results and strong creative ideas that move the needle for clients' sales. This year's winners were culled from a list of over 400 entries from the U.S. and globally, representing some of the best and brightest agencies today.
Introducing the 2022 Small Agency of the Year Awards winners
"They may be small in number of employees, but these shops are proven to have big ideas and big ambitions," said Judann Pollack, Ad Age executive editor. "Their work is as good as—or in many cases better—than that turned out by agencies many times their size. They have proven time and time again that they are nimble, adaptable and able to compete with the giants."
Below, we've put together a fact sheet on the awards, the judging and the process.
What are the Ad Age Small Agency Awards?
The Ad Age Small Agency Awards recognize standout independent agencies with fewer than 150 employees that are producing both noteworthy creative work and strong business results. The awards program is run in tandem with the Small Agency Conference, a two-day event that offers hands-on business advice tailored to the needs of small agencies on topics such as how to compete for new business, how to win at recruiting, how to deal with client procurement departments and more.
Where are the awards held?
The awards travel from city to city each year. In its more than 10-year history, it has been held in places including New Orleans; Portland, Oregon; Los Angeles; and Miami. This year’s event was held in Chicago on July 26-27.
What awards categories are included?
The awards have three components: Best Agencies of the Year; Campaigns of the Year and—new in 2022—People Awards.
What are the judging criteria for the best agency awards?
The Agency of the Year awards are chosen by the Ad Age editorial staff and are based on several factors. One is business momentum, which takes into account factors including new business wins, revenue growth and the number of new hires. Another is creative prowess based upon the quality of campaigns submitted, along with the breadth of its work—for example, is the agency proficient in all forms of creative including social, digital, out-of-home, PR? Judges also take into strong consideration the effectiveness of the work and the specific results it has produced for its clients. Another consideration is how an agency is approaching future growth—is it looking to break into new disciplines or partner with others to master health care, gaming, metaverse, media and the like? Judges also take into account an agency’s culture, how it is engaging existing employees, its employee benefit and enrichment programs, current diversity stats and how it is working to diversify its talent base.
How are campaigns of the year chosen?
The Campaigns of the Year awards are judged by an outside panel of judges composed of creative directors from ad agencies; judges rotate every year. For a full list of the 2022 campaign judges, click here. The campaign awards are separated into six categories: B2B, Digital, Pro Bono, Integrated, Experiential and Media.
How are the People Awards chosen?
Based on the entries, Ad Age staffers make the selections for the People Awards, which currently encompass four categories: Strategic Planner of the Year, Account Manager of the Year, Media Planner of the Year and Creative Directors of the Year.
How does Ad Age define a small agency?
For the purposes of the awards, a small agency is classified as one with fewer than 150 full-time employees. But to put shops on an even playing field, the awards are divided into several categories. There are gold and silver awards given in three size categories—agencies with 1-10 employees; agencies with 11-75 employees; and agencies with 76-150 employees. In addition, there are gold and silver awards given by region—Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, Southwest, Midwest and West. Then there are the two top awards: Agency of the Year silver and gold, given to the best of the best small shops in the country among entrants as judged by the editors.
Why is it called the Small Agency Awards rather than independent awards?
The purpose of the awards is to recognize agencies doing striking work despite having fewer employees and resources than sprawling shops supported by the deep pockets of major holding companies. So while our winners are majority-owned independents, by definition they have vastly fewer staffers than “big” independents such as Wieden+Kennedy or Mother which also have global offices.
Who won the 2021 Small Agency Awards?
The Agency of the Year in 2021 was Translation. To read about the Agency of the Year and our other winners, click here.
How can I enter the Small Agency Awards next year?
Ad Age issues a call for entries on its website in mid-February.