AdweekMedia’s Agency of the Year 2010

Finding companies that have done something different is not that difficult. Finding firms that have been both innovative and successful is somewhat harder. We’re pleased to have found no less than eight such companies. 

This year, in a break with our tradition, we have selected six “insurgents” alongside our Creative Agency and Media Agency of the Year. These shops have forced their way into our attention by conducting business in unique ways or by focusing on endeavors ignored by others. 

Our insurgents span a range of disciplines, from PR to branded entertainment to marketing software. There are even a couple of ad agencies in there. All push at the edges of the advertising and marketing business, collectively illustrating the future. 

Our Agency of the Year, Wieden + Kennedy, raised the bar this year for cross-platform campaigns and gave new meaning to the phrase “join the conversation” with its campaign for Old Spice. Others will be trying to emulate its approach for years to come. 

Horizon Media, our Media Agency of the Year, is the largest such shop not owned by a holding company. Led by CEO Bill Koenigsberg, it has shown the way forward by diversifying aggressively and profitably. 

This is the 25th time we’ve made these selections of the best in our field. We believe the new structure of our choices presents a collection of ventures that are reshaping the industry.

Embracing digital via Old Spice and Nike creative leads to AOY laurels.

The last big indie evolves under the leadership of CEO Bill Koenigsberg.

Impressing more major clients with its ideas, not ads.


“Hardware hackers” build “toys” in the service of marketing.

Making Facebook more friendly to marketers’ brands.

Reality TV and product placement color Ben Silverman’s new venture.


This tech marketing powerhouse is not your standard PR practice.

Swedes combine digital advertising, filmmaking and art in New York.


Sweet Smell of Success

A cross-platform campaign for Old Spice catapults the agency into the digital elite

By Eleftheria Parpis

Photos by Chris Mueller

Wieden + Kennedy was in a digital death spiral. The iconic creative shop behind Nike was blocked on how to adjust its psyche and personnel to embrace the digital shift transforming media and marketing.

It already had lost some Nike business when, in 2007, the agency’s founding client shifted its core running division due to Wieden’s lack of interactive depth. The shop needed to evolve quickly or die.

“We were not the swiftest picking up on the digital revolution,” says Dan Wieden, co-founder and global ecd. He told his staff, he says, that “whether we like it or not, the rest of the world has eclipsed us. If we don’t get our act together, we are going to be a footnote.”

Now, thanks to its breakout campaign for Old Spice’s Red Zone Body Wash—which broke with a Super Bowl weekend TV spot—Wieden is the agency your agency could smell like.

The work, a slightly twisted, tongue-in-cheek production starring a towel-wearing Isaiah Mustafa, was part of a concerted effort by the agency to strengthen its digital offerings. The results have landed the shop in its own version of Bizzarro World, a place where other marketers are looking to “The man your man could smell like” for ideas on how to run their own campaigns. The creative has garnered the brand a 2,700 percent increase in Twitter followers, 800 percent increase in Facebook fan page visits and a 300 percent increase in traffic to the Old Spice Web site. It’s also generated an estimated 140 million YouTube views.

According to Marc Pritchard, global marketing and brand-building officer of Old Spice at parent company Procter & Gamble, it has helped the brand lead market share and is “growing sales in double digits.”

Indeed, the Portland-Ore.-headquartered indie has had one of its best performing years in its 28-year history. It saw client growth in both Portland and New York, and increased its U.S. revenue and billings nearly 22 percent (billings to $1.5 billion, revenue $145 million).

For the most part, it mined existing client relationships. Chrysler added Jeep, Target gave Wieden lead agency status, P&G added a corporate branding assignment as well as Ivory North America, Nokia added North America, and Coca-Cola digital assignments for Diet Coke and Coca-Cola targeting teens.

The agency has also produced some of its best work for Nike, a client Wieden calls “the soul” of his agency. (Its running business returned to the shop in 2008.) “We were born in that cauldron of the early ’80s, when [Nike] wanted to be the Saturday Night Live of the Fortune 500,” he says.

Wieden’s best Nike work this year was the stop-motion spot “Human Chain” and its “Write the Future” commercial directed by Babel’s Alejandro G. Iñarritu. The latter spot, which starred more than a dozen pro-soccer stars and debuted on Facebook, was also in play during the World Cup as a digital installation on a Johannesburg skyscraper. It received so much positive buzz that World Cup sponsor and rival adidas ended up looking as battered as England after being drubbed by Germany.

The creatives that led the effort, Mark Bernath and Eric Quennoy, were promoted to ecds of the Amsterdam office, which had produced the work with assistance from Portland.

And this month, Wieden opened a new office in Sao Paulo, Brazil, headed by Icaro Doria, ecd, and Andre Gustavo Soares, managing director.

Improving the shop’s digital output took four years. To start on that path, in 2006 the agency hired Renny Gleeson, former managing director at Aegis Group’s Carat Fusion, as global director of digital strategies. He built up the shop’s digital production capabilities, adding digital creatives, developers, designers, coders—”folks who help iterate,” says Gleeson. He also worked on communications planning—what he describes as “changing the way the media team approaches what it does, how ideas evolve”—and community management.

“It’s not like we flipped the switch,” Gleeson adds. “It was a build. And we needed the spark to set it off. That’s where Iain comes in.”

Iain Tait, recruited last April from Poke London, which he co-founded, joined Wieden as global interactive ecd. Within months of  his arrival, the Old Spice team let loose its “response” campaign. For three days in July, the agency created nearly 200 customized videos starring Mustafa that responded to mentions of the Old Spice TV spots on blogs and social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. These videos spread virally and, in some cases, became ongoing two-way conversations, engaging participation from celebrities like Alyssa Milano and Ellen DeGeneres, not to mention a  random consumer who wrote in seeking help from Mustafa in proposing to his girlfriend.

This social marketing component generated 1.8 billion PR impressions for the brand.

Even before the Old Spice response campaign, Wieden was being recognized for its new digital expertise at Cannes. It won the Cyber Grand Prix for its 2009 Nike “Chalkbot” campaign—a collaboration with Deeplocal for Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong charity—and the Integrated Grand Prix for the Livestrong campaign of which it was a part. (Wieden also won the top prize in film, and a Best Commercial Emmy from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for its Old Spice work.)

With its global growth looking strong as well—it had a 10 percent jump in billings and revenue this year (billings to $2.3 billion, revenue $230 million)—the agency is especially optimistic about the future. Both Levi’s and P&G are expanding the agency’s duties with global assignments next year.

Wieden remains philosophical. “Brands are no different than people,” he says. “They lose their way and forget their way. You need to give them a jolt, hand them a mirror and put them on stage.”


Endless Horizons

An aggressive expansion turns a media agency into a media player

By Steve McClellan

The media buying business is in many ways the antithesis of the personality-driven ad agency business—sometimes seen as a back-office, procurement function run by anonymous bureaucrats. And then there is Bill Koenigsberg—so ebullient, voluble, cocky and charismatic that he seems to be steering his company, Horizon, the largest independent media agency, out of the media buying business. Indeed, he is creating something that starts to feel like a hybrid of media buying and media making.   

His new initiatives to this end have included a sports marketing operation and a division that helps clients dispose of underperformance assets in exchange for advertising. Up next: a new joint venture with as-yet named partners that will focus solely on helping clients to devise new ad placement techniques in traditional and emerging media.

The last big indie standing has had a very good year. At a time when other media shops have been forced to scale back, total client billings for Horizon, Koenigsberg’s 21-year-old shop, are up 30 percent to $2.6 billion—more than twice the amount of any other independent media agency. And the shop won a handful of marquee accounts including Dish TV, Corona and Weight Watchers. The CEO, in fact, is feeling confident—so much so that he’s making a series of radical moves into diverse arenas like sports talent representation and event marketing.

His goal is to continue doing more of what he’s been doing: grabbing market share from the holding company agencies. Koenigsberg’s success has fueled endless speculation that he’ll sell the company, speculation he doesn’t dismiss while hedging on the timing.

“Someday but I can’t tell you if that someday is next year or 10 years from now. Right now I’m trying to understand where the media world is going to be a month from now and a month after that,” he says.

With marketers pressuring media agencies for cheaper rates, said one search consultant, the company was shrewd to offer additional services “so it doesn’t get squeezed on compensation.”

Koenigsberg, a one-time collegiate tennis player, founded the agency in 1989. He has invested roughly $50 million over the past two years, launching new services, adding staff and strengthening existing operations such as digital—where it added social media, search and customer relationship marketing expertise—and research, where it expanded its consumer insights group. The shop also is moving into a 150,000-square-foot space in downtown Manhattan that will consolidate its four offices around the city.

Koenigsberg’s decision to reinvest and build had much to do with the agency’s revenue growth. In 2009, when the recession was raging, Horizon increased revenue by 5 percent. This year, it’s up 27 percent to $135 million, according to sources. (Koenigsberg won’t confirm the company’s numbers.)

Of the several new units launched this year, the dive into sports—still in its planning stages—seems, on the surface, the most surprising. For a company whose clients include major sports advertisers (for instance, Geico, which along with NBC has been a client for over two decades, and Corona), it’s actually a calculated land grab. Horizon plans to represent talent, acquire the media and marketing rights to various sporting events, and assist clients with their sponsorship and marketing efforts.

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