From Moscow to Mumbai, These Agencies Make Today’s Best Campaigns

Portraits of shops doing award-winning ads like 'Epic Split' and 'Dumb Ways to Die'

Stéphane Xiberras, president, photographed on the banks of the Seine by Emmanuel Fradin.

BETC

Paris

While this agency’s logo pays homage to the bee colony it tends atop its roof terrace—which happens to be some of the finest real estate in Paris, boasting a 360-degree view—the insect imagery also gives a nod to the creative chaos inside the shop that has brought such sweet results. “We like the idea of a hive with its hustle and bustle,” explains Stéphane Xiberras, president and executive creative director. “When you watch bees work, you have the impression it’s pure mayhem, but there’s a logic to it. With us, it’s exactly the same thing.” Launched 20 years ago as an offshoot of Euro RSCG, now Havas, BETC’s work became the stuff of global fascination. In 2009, Evian’s “Roller Babies” became the most downloaded commercial in the world. Last year, “The Bear,” a spot for Canal+, received more awards than any other commercial (including a Clio Award, which like Adweek is owned by affiliates of Guggenheim partners), while Evian’s “Baby & Me” was the year’s most viewed online campaign. After expanding to London and São Paulo, BETC now has the states in its sights, with plans to open a New York outpost next year.

 


Erik Sollenberg, CEO, and Anna Qvennerstedt, creative chairman, photographed in the archipelago of Gothenburg by Morten Koldby.

Forsman & Bodenfors

Gothenburg

In 1986, four guys started an ad agency in this Swedish industrial port, an unlikely location seeing as the country’s ad industry is centered in Stockholm. Since then, F&B has not only become Scandinavia’s best-known agency but has also developed a global reputation after winning 85 Cannes Lions, including its recent sweep for Volvo Trucks’ “Epic Split” starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. F&B was also named Independent Agency of the Year at this year’s festival. This, in addition to the shop last year taking home a total of four Clio Awards (three Silver and one Bronze). “Our initial objective was to challenge the establishment and try to compete with the best agencies in Stockholm,” says F&B’s CEO Erik Sollenberg. “That underdog mentality has been an important ingredient in our success. We’re still David against Goliath, since we now identify ourselves as a small independent agency from close to the North Pole that competes with the best agencies in the world.” In that battle, F&B, which has a second office in Stockholm, counts 120 staffers—a relatively modest head count considering its profile and awards, including four Clios, but also one that enables it to send as many creatives as possible to Cannes every year, not only senior management.


(L. to r.) Mark Taylor, Gary Tranter and Matt Cullen, ecds/co-founders; and Nick Marrett, CEO/co-founder, photographed at the Marina Bay Sands by Darren Soh.

Arcade

Singapore

Founded in 2010 by four former executives at large agency networks, this Singapore shop set out to create a smaller, more nimble, free-flowing business model that has since expanded to Shanghai, Tokyo and Jakarta. “We wanted to remove departmentalization by media and put the focus firmly back on storytelling and sparking lively conversation,” says CEO and founding partner Nick Marrett. “This fosters a new breed of creative mind, one that is media-agnostic and thinks across all channels, even invents new ones.” Despite its entrepreneurial underpinnings, Arcade shares the global ambitions of its Asian clients, creating work that travels not just through the region but also around the globe. Arcade launched Unilever’s Clear shampoo in North America; created the first Android concept store in the world in Indonesia, which has become the blueprint for a global retail rollout; and introduced beauty brand Motions in South Africa. It all caught the attention of Publicis Worldwide, which acquired a stake in August. 


Fred & Farid 

Shanghai

Grégoire Chalopin (l.) and Feng Huang, creative directors,

photographed near the agency’s offices by Chad Ingraham.

Founded in Paris, this agency is now considered one of the hottest shops in mainland China, capturing the possibilities and lightning speed of business there. The digital agency, located in an old opium warehouse on the Bund, communicates 24/7/365 with Parisian staffers through a wall of giant screens, with details on all projects shared among all employees across the six-hour time difference.

“Beijing decided that despite the size of the country, China would be on one time zone,” notes co-founder Fred Raillard. “That creates a mass phenomenon that is incredible. Movements on social media are incomparable to any other. Hot topics engage everyone in China at the same time.” (Fred & Farid Group has won more than 300 international awards, including a Clio Award for Film Technique in 2013 for its work on "Back to Water.") Three years ago, Raillard went to China with a creative director colleague from Paris, Feng Haung, who wanted to return to his native Shanghai. Raillard planned to stay long enough to open a small office. But four days later, all that changed when he decided to relocate permanently. “I fell in love,” he says. “China is five years ahead of the Western world regarding digital and social media, so it influences our digital practice in the West. It makes us reinvent our approach to business.”


(L. to r.) Abhijit Avasthi and Rajiv Rao, national creative directors; Piyush Pandey, executive chairman/creative director, South Asia; Madhukar Sabnavis, vice chairman/country head, planning; and Kunal Jeswani, chief digital officer, photographed at the Gateway of India by Vishal Kullarwar.

Ogilvy & Mather, India

Mumbai

India always had a special place in David Ogilvy’s imagination. In fact, his agency was the first multinational to enter the country, with origins going back 86 years. Now working with both local and global clients like Vodafone, Unilever and IBM, Ogilvy, based in Mumbai, is not only the country’s largest agency but also its most award-winning, having been recognized with the highest honors of the Advertising Club of India for the last 16 years, in addition to accolades picked up at Cannes, the Effies, The One Show and a 2012 Lifetime Achievement Clio Award. But Piyush Pandey, executive chairman, creative director, stresses that diversity of creative expression trumps industry acclaim. “Our philosophy is to create communication that first delights people on the streets of India. If that work happens to delight international award juries, it’s a bonus,” says Pandey, noting that most staffers in the agency speak three languages: English, Hindi and one of the country’s 22 other official languages. “We try to create an environment where creativity is welcomed from across functions and disciplines,” he adds. Case in point: Last year’s Google ad “Reunion,” centered around the partition of India, which triggered a strong response in India and Pakistan and went viral even before its TV debut.


Sergio Gordilho (l.), co-president/CCO, and Marcio Santoro, co-president/CEO, photographed on the roof of the agency’s offices by Jonne Roriz.

Africa

São Paulo

São Paulo shop Africa was one of the big local ad players behind this year’s World Cup in Brazil, creating the games’ official logo and producing work for clients like Itaú Bank, Brahma beer, Budweiser and Vivo telecom. But while the 12-year-old agency enjoys a high profile in Brazil and has on several occasions been selected as one of the country’s most admired companies by national media, it doesn’t have the global reputation it might have earned by now. One reason is Africa’s early avoidance of awards shows. When it bent that rule in 2007 and finally entered work in Cannes’ Cyber competition, it became the second most-awarded agency in the category. The Grupo ABC shop also has an office in Rio de Janeiro, specializing in content and entertainment, as well as an outpost in New York, where it works on behalf of Brazilian brands that aspire to go global. Founded by former executives of Omnicom’s DM9DDB, the shop maintains a strong point of view about its business model. “We like to say we are kind of the Relais & Châteaux of advertising—we handle fewer clients, with exclusive offices and dedicated teams,” says CEO Marcio Santoro. “My partners and I are deeply involved in each client’s business, with direct participation throughout the process.” 


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