10 Agencies that might be the next Crispin Porter

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1. Anomaly

If their ideas are as big as their public pronouncements, TBWA vet Carl Johnson and longtime freelancer Ernest Lupinacci will take the agency scene by storm. Anomaly burst into existence with verbal attacks on the traditional agency model, tossing around phrases like "executionally agnostic" and promising advertising would only account for a quarter of revenue. All that before it had any clients. But with Coke having handed its marketing duties for its Dasani water brand to the upstart, this talented quintet starts to look like it can walk the media-agnostic walk.


If Worldwide CEO Andrew Robertson gets his way and successfully implements his conjunction-driven "and-not-or" philosophy of advertising, then Omnicom Group's BBDO will expand its Super Bowl spot reputation to include the nontraditional marketing channels that new top creative David Lubars excels in. The result could be a Crispin on steroids, a global network capable of hitting consumers all over the world with multilayered campaigns including everything from buzz-grabbing viral efforts to big, cinematic spots for massive clients such as Pepsi, FedEx and Chrysler. Frightening.

3. J. Walter Thompson

One of the oldest brands in the business appears poised for a rejuvenation. The November arrival of Ty Montague, hired as exec VP-chief creative officer and co-president of the agency's New York flagship, has raised expectations: the 41-year-old veteran of some Mad Ave.'s best (Wieden & Kennedy, Bartle Bogle Hegarty) is the brains behind some of the most-talked-about advertising in recent years (i.e., Beta-7). Can he, teamed with JWT's crew of entrepreneurially minded execs (Rosemary Ryan and worldwide chief Bob Jeffrey) reinvigorate WPP's 140-year-old global network? (See steroid remarks above for scary prospects.)

4. Powell in New York

Miss Rheingold had been consigned to the dustbin of New York pop-culture history until Neil Powell came along. The former Fallon and Duffy creative not only helped to revive the mid-century cheesecake contest but also the fortunes of the moribund brewery that had once been a mainstay of Gotham's bar culture. As with Crispin, Powell seems to realize it's not just the paid media that counts, but whether the paid media will earn lots of press-Miss Rheingold certainly did. New client Sundance Channel should yield some good opportunities to show off creative skills. Landing a bigger client will be the bigger challenge.

5. Strawberry Frog

The Frog leapt across the Atlantic this year as the Amsterdam-based shop's New York outpost promptly pulled in some business from Emirates Airlines. But the year was more notable for the work it did for existing clients like Mitsubushi Motors Europe. To supplement the automaker's launch of its Lancer Evolution VIII, Strawberry Frog went after young men with a print and viral campaign depicting the vehicle as something to be worshipped. For the Boomer Coalition, a cardiovascular-education program from Pfizer and the American Heart Association, the agency held a concert in November featuring the Doobie Brothers and Patti LaBelle.

6. Taxi

Toronto-based Taxi has long been proficient at generating buzz north of the border. For BMW Mini, a Crispin client in the United States, Taxi has been doing Crispin-like, media-neutral work: some risque ads, design, stunts and microsites. The next challenge for the Paul Lavoie-led shop is to make its New York office, launched in November with a trio of clients, including Microsoft and College Sports Television, work. The first test will be whether it can make a 25-store dry-cleaning chain from The Men's Wearhouse a brand to behold. Taxi is also trying to convert on Chipita International's European creative review.

7. Venables Bell & Partner

Paul Venables, picked to be the next Goodby by Jeff Goodby himself, and partner Greg Bell walked out of the lauded creative shop in June 2001 at the height of the dot-com bust to start their own agency. They picked up Napster and revised the newly legit service with an online animation of a cool Napster cat breaking out of jail. The campaign stole two gold Cyber Lions at Cannes and top honors at the One Show Interactive Awards among others. The shop is starting to capture the attention of national and international marketers, and it's a finalist in Mercedes-Benz USA's Smart car review and for an international review for Chipita International.

8. Heavy

One of the strangest dot-com survival stories is that of Heavy.com. Not only is the Web site-a Maxim-Comedy Central mash-up, only more absurd-still chugging along with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month, but co-CEOs Simon Assaad and David Carson are now doing ads. Well, not just advertising, but also branding and ID work, retail consultation and sponsorships. They launched MTV-challenger Fuse, they're helping American Eagle Outfitters redesign its stores, and they even developed that homespun print and outdoor campaign for Time Inc.'s Life magazine relaunch.

9. Amalgamated

Upon its founding just 18 months ago, Amalgamated was faced with a profound marketing question for its first client, Fuse: How do you take on king of the category MTV? The equally profound answer: Sally Struthers. Spearheading Much Music's makeover with fringe celebrities and an unusual media plan made for a major debut for the agency formed by Cliff Freeman expats, followed up nicely with Ben & Jerry's return to TV and strong below-the-line efforts for ice-cream brand. Now, all Amalgamated needs to do is start grabbing some major marketers.

10. Wieden & Kennedy

(Henceforth also known as Offended, Oregon.) If you'd been the best ad shop in the country for the better part of a decade, you'd probably be offended at being described as "next year's Crispin." You'd probably be doubly offended if the reality was that your agency has long espoused some nontraditional approaches, particularly, in Wieden's case, through an entertainment unit that has developed some highly visible Mad & Vine pieces. Crispin still seems more genuinely media-agnostic, but Wieden still churns out great spots and it has led the pack for years. All right, what we don't know is: Is Wieden the next Crispin or is it the other way around?

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