Sizing Up the Competition, Part II

NEW YORK A year ago, Adweek invited readers to evaluate the same 33 national ad agencies we graded in our Agency Report Cards issue. The results, published last May, offered a comprehensive snapshot of how the ad industry viewed its major players at the time. We held the same survey this spring, again with technical help from JWT, to see how those same 33 agencies are perceived a year later.

Click here to view a PDF of the results.

As part of the survey, we also asked respondents to list agencies they’re talking about that weren’t in the survey. A sampling of answers is featured below:

R/GA: innovative, entrepreneurial. StrawberryFrog: wondering what they’ve done lately. Cliff Freeman and Partners: wondering why they’re still afloat.

Mother: groundbreaking and different structure. McKinney: if it loses Audi, it could be in trouble.

Bartle Bogle Hegarty: great branded entertainment and integrated work (Axe).

Draft: innovative thinking and fast results.

Crispin: they’re exciting and brave. Lowe & FCB: they are embarrassing train wrecks.

Ignited Minds, G&M Plumbing, Wexley School for Girls, 72 Degrees and Sunny, Creature. I like these shops because they consistently make it through the clutter.

I think that SS+K is the agency to watch. They will have a breakout year in 2007.

Cliff Freeman and Partners is running itself into the ground. They lack serious business-minded leadership and no one is minding the store. Cliff himself is still a creative powerhouse, but there’s no one to take the throne.

Wexley School for Girls: the most interesting creative shop I’ve seen in a while.

ALR Design: an underdog trying to bring integrity and political conscientiousness to branding and advertising (and being largely ignored).

Ferebee-Lane. Because they are incredibly creative and kicking some brand marketing butt. Located in Greenville, S.C. Check them out. If you have not heard of them yet, you will. Fresh/clean creative and dead-on strategic.

Draft: you have to ask? Butler Shine and Stern: consistently great work; agency weathered S.F. crash. R/GA: they get credit for lots of Weiden’s great online work as well as Goodby’s.

Carmichael Lynch: don’t know why they aren’t on this list. They top every major award circuit, they build brands like Harley-Davidson, Porsche, A.G. Edwards, Jack Link’s, American Standard. They scare other agencies. Clients love them!

Butler Shine Stern & Partners. Venables Bell & Partners. StrawberryFrog. Small, creatively driven agencies that focus on what makes the most interesting, exciting method of communicating with consumers on behalf of their clients.

The Draft FCB Group merger has the right idea. It’s really going to reshape the way business is done in our industry.

Agencies like Anomaly and Naked, because they do not think of their capabilites as pre-packaged disciplines; they offer media neutral solutions to clients that transcend (and include) traditional advertising.

StrawberryFrog: A collection of wicked smart, talented people who live to do stellar work. They push boundaries every day, even rethinking our industry’s outdated business model. They’ve done some nice work in Europe and are one to watch.

SS+K: They are the next Crispin.

The Concept Farm has become much more high profile lately and they have an innovative model focusing on branded content that is right for the times.

Modernista! Fresh work. StrawberryFrog: great design. Mother: unique approach. BBH: good design, smart work.

AKQA and Tribal DDB. They are really driving the creation of interactive experiences that consumers choose to get involved with.

Gabriel DeGroot Bendt in Minneapolis. Nice creative work. Innovative ideas.

72 and Sunny: greatness and humility.

Avrett Free Ginsberg. Plenty of talented people but lacks the management and vision to put it on the map.

Some of the exclusive interactive shops are going to make a splash soon enough, Razorfish, Organic, Tribal DDB, as they move into CRM marketing functions that only the Web can provide.

180 Amsterdam. They’re the most innovative.

Carmichael Lynch. I admire the consistently good creative. Currently my most admired small shop. Replaces VitroRobertson, who hasn’t seemed to do much in the past two years.

Cramer-Krasselt. Their Monk-E-Mail is genius, and the entire organization is well run. It is a shame and a shock that they are not included in this survey.

Cramer-Krasselt: on the verge of breaking into the national scene. BBH: They are a tight shop. Cliff Freeman and Partners: What the hell happened?

None. In fact, I’m only talking about five or six of the 33 listed. All of the others aren’t even on my radar.

Rodgers Townsend, because they are about to explode and are the next strategic minded agency to make it big.

Mcgarrybowen. They have quietly become a new-business monster and a force to be reckoned with.

R/GA: They are the only ones truly using traditional media in creative ways.

McKinney. Because of David Baldwin’s leadership. Modernista! Because of the work and the attitude.

WestWayne: They have hired all new people to run the place and have a solid client roster.

Young and Laramore, Indianapolis. Solid, innovative, unknown. Point to Point Communications, Cleveland. Solid, innovative, unknown. Hunt Adkins, Minneapolis. Best copywriting in the country.

Any other agency would be a boutique or interactive-only such as Barbarian or Razorfish.

OneSeven, just to see how they thrive post Saatchi and General Mills.

Any independent agency is better than an agency under a holding company. Publicly traded companies are bad for their clients.

I’m talking about Amalgamated, because of their new ideas about product development.

Draft, making history with a new vision of integrated marketing communications with FCB.

Fort Franklin (great work), Wexley School for Girls (great work), Butler Shine (won mini/good work), Ground Zero (good work).

Mother. They are rocking it.

Loeffler Ketchum Mountjoy: smart, simple solutions.

Sullivan Higdon Sink: great agency position, smart people, unexpected place. Martin/Williams: what happened to them? Butler Shine & Stern: good work, smart people. R&R: only known for one account, but what great work.

Element 79 in Chicago. Smart, savvy work. Explosive growth. Reputation for having an incredible culture.

Hadrian’s Wall. Great work.

Cliff Freeman and Partners. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Modernista! While they aren’t very big, their work is always good and interesting. Carmichael Lynch. Classic, solid, and beautifully crafted work. Element 79 Partners. An agency that seems to be doing better work. One good ad away from making a name for themselves.

None really, which is a shame. The holding companies that own a majority of the ad agencies have, in my opinion, destroyed what advertising is really about.

VitroRobertson: some of the best print work over the last 10 years, easy. Secret Weapon Marketing: found the formula for success and are free to do as they please.

Modernista! They are visionary.

Venables Bell & Partners. They are my current AOR, five years running. We are consistently inspired by their intelligence, creativity and contributions to our brand.

I have talked about Boone/Oakley because of what they have accomplished as a small shop in N.C.

J. Russell Creative Marketing and WongDoody. They are at the heart with their campaigns, and think way outside what you would consider advertising, but nail it every time.

Sullivan Higdon & Sink: They’re putting some good creative together with less than earth-shattering clients. Bernstein-Rein: Will they lose Wal-Mart? Anyone in India. They’re turning out ridiculous stuff. U.S. agencies got it handed to them at Cannes.

Sullivan Higdon & Sink, merely because of their podcast. Fort Franklin does consistently good work.

Digitas, Draft, Tribal DDB. There are a bunch of companies focused on the future of advertising (integrated, media neutral campaigns) rather than the TV-heavy efforts many of the 33 focus on.

G&M Plumbing in Southern California is hot. They have great work coming out of there. I think they are extremely underrated.

I don’t have any specifics in mind. I only hope that whoever it is, they take the industry in new directions and force the rest of us to change as well.