This year, Adweek is not only celebrating the best ad agencies in the business but also striving to help other shops understand what makes the best of the best truly stand out.
That’s why, for the first time, Adweek has a theme for its Agency of the Year awards program: Building a Better Agency. Adweek asked each finalist across all seven categories to explain how it is building a better agency for the future.
Last year, FCB India took home the title of Adweek’s International Agency of the Year.
How we got here
Adweek invited any agency to enter (without a fee) its yearly Agency of the Year awards program by providing information about its past year and best work.
A team of Adweek editors and reporters combed through the entries and generated a list of five finalists in each category. Adweek’s internal jury deliberated over these finalists, taking into account three main factors:
- Business success (client wins and losses, revenue growth, strategy and use of technology).
- The work (a reel featuring the agency’s 10 best and most effective pieces of creative).
- Talent and ESG (creating an environment for employees to succeed through its culture and benefits, as well as advancing DEI and sustainability).
On Oct. 10, Adweek will reveal the winning agencies. Below, in alphabetical order, are the finalists for International Agency of the Year.
BETC Paris, an agency of about 1,000 people, won every new client it went after over the past year. It’s not hard to see why when its creative stood out as some of the best across Europe this year, including several pieces of work that would stop consumers in their tracks for Canal+.
BETC Paris made two films, with one winning a Gold Cannes Lion for Film, one of the most coveted awards at the festival. The other—”The Secret of Wakany”—takes viewers on a journey reminiscent of the rise of Game of Thrones fandom, only for fans of the fake show to be let down by a twist ending.
How it’s building a better agency: The agency pointed Adweek to its Sustainability Report, which outlines its corporate social responsibility goals. In it, it shows four pillars focused on designing and producing responsible campaigns, talents for a positive impact, spread an inspiring CSR and improve its environmental and local footprint. “At BETC, we like to reconsider the limits between media, culture, communication and business to renew the connection between brands and the public. We bring together complimentary talents and expertises with the same obsession: creativity,” the report reads.
Earlier this year, Adweek told the harrowing tale of Bickerstaff.734, a Ukrainian agency fighting back against Russia using the best way it knows how: creativity. Its employees, which have scattered across Europe, with many still in the Ukraine, have created a number of powerful campaigns to rally the country and the world against Russia. Butt it’s also executing purpose-driven work for clients, like Galychyna, a dairy brand that adopted 14 names representing Ukraine’s regions, symbolizing national unity.
How it’s building a better agency: “I don’t make business out of creativity. I’m building an agency I would have dreamt of working at when I was an art director,” said Ilia Anufrienko, the founder and creative director of Bickerstaff.734. “Building a better agency is fueled by fear. You can either fear failure or fear not trying at all. Most of our attempts are successful, and mistakes can be corrected.”
Gut Buenos Aires
Gut Buenos Aires took to the global stage this year by tapping into a number of culturally relevant moments for an impressive client roster that includes Mercado Libre, PedidosYa, Globant and Coca-Cola. Gut asks its clients to be brave, even measuring their braveness on a scale and pushes them to become braver over time. Its clients responded by commissioning gutsy work.
Noblex ran a promo that would refund the purchase of any TV bought on football legend Maradona’s birthday if Argentina won the World Cup. PedidosYa shocked customers with a push notification saying their package was on the way—but the package was actually Argentina’s World Cup trophy.
How it’s building a better agency: “It’s all about priorities. At Gut, we prioritize in this order: People First, Work Second, and Clients Third,” said Gaston Bigio, co-founder and creative chairman at Gut. “The bravest clients understand and appreciate our priorities. When your people are happy, inspired and nurtured—they will do great work.”
It’s not often one piece of work beautifully encapsulates an agency’s mission, but Mother London’s seven-minute film for Greenpeace does a pretty good job of fulfilling its “make our children proud” mission. Mother has a long track record of using its creativity for good, and it often produces pieces of work, not for clients, but to make a statement about causes like parental leave and the climate crisis. Its compelling “Don’t Stop” film features an opulent party that begins to go south as the service staff bears the consequences of the partygoers’ actions. It’s a stunning metaphor for fossil fuel brands who continue to rake in record profits, as the film points out.
Aside from its purpose work, Mother London also executed a number of outstanding pieces of work for clients KFC, Samsung, Uber Eats and Ikea over the past year.
How it’s building a better agency: “We have few rules, but we are guided by our trinity: Make the best work we possibly can, have fun and make a living. And always in that order,” said Felix Richter, partner at Mother London.
Rethink is known for its consistently strong Heinz work, but the agency created culturally-resonate pieces of work for a number of brands, including KitKat’s Ramadan Iftar Bar, which was widely praised for how it reached Muslims, and a heart-warming film about a boy, troll … and Ikea furniture. And of course the Heinz work is worth highlighting as always, including a campaign that calls out restaurants that fill up Heinz bottles with generic ketchup and one of the first buzzy uses of AI, which asked AI what ketchup looks like. Spoiler: AI kept spitting out images of Heinz ketchup.
The agency, which boasts a 90% retention rate, has added a PR and brand narrative team to support its clients, and the shop is pursuing its B Corp certification.
How it’s building a better agency: “Our vision is to set the standard that other creative businesses strive to be and we live that through all of our actions, well beyond advertising,” said Sean McDonald, global chief strategy officer and partner, Rethink.