The Winners’ Circle

Not every ad agency was in recovery mode in 2004. Some did just fine, thank you.

As Dizzy Dean famously said, “If you can do it, then you ain’t braggin’.” And last year, four players truly had reason to claim bragging rights—and Adweek Agency of the Year honors.

Omnicom Group’s DDB is Global Agency of the Year for the second year in a row—the first time in five years that a network has repeated as the world’s best (McCann-Erickson did it in 1999 and 2000). In 2004, DDB reprised the performance that earned it the honor in 2003—adding more than $1 billion in new billings while retaining 99 percent of existing business. It also enjoyed the fruits of new management installed in the past 18 months in key offices.

New leaders in Germany made DDB Berlin a top 10 creative shop there for the first time in decades. In London, a revitalized management engineered another impressive turnaround. But the big blast was in New York, which threw off years of floundering with a flourish and triumphed in more than $300 million worth of reviews, bringing in Subaru, Diet Pepsi, Lipton and other big-name clients.

Not coincidentally, DDB lost none of its vaunted creative flair in 2004 and was the most-awarded agency network in the world. You can read how DDB did it, beginning on page 12.

In the U.S., another Omnicom offering, TBWA\Chiat\Day, was king of the hill. Powered by its Southern California office, the agency’s American operation wooed and won business as much for its strategic strength as its creative prowess, muscling onto the roster of blue-chip clients like Anheuser-Busch and Pepsi. And the work, as always, stood out from coast to coast, from San Francisco’s “Impossible is nothing” ads for Adidas to New York’s re-imaging of the Skittles rainbow and rebranding of Nextel to Playa del Rey’s Apple iPod campaign.

Just as tellingly: TBWA\C\D didn’t lose a single client in 2004. Noreen O’Leary tells that agency’s story, beginning on page 16.

Our Regional Agency of the Year is New York-based Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners, which had a standout 12 months in new business while retaining the creative panache that helped establish its reputation in the mid 1990s. As Richard Kirshenbaum admits, he and Jon Bond are no longer “young and brash.” Even the Midwestern financial types at Edward Jones in St. Louis, a new KB+P client in 2004, have established a solid relationship with the hipsters from SoHo. Deanna Zammit reports, beginning on page 20.

But with apologies to Paul McCartney, in this ever-changing ad world in which we live, not every shop succeeds by sticking to tried-and-true formulas. Actually, these days, maybe no agency can succeed by delivering business as usual. In 1997, Adweek launched the President’s Award, to honor excellence by nontraditional shops. It is not given every year. But in 2004, there was a clear and compelling reason to bestow the President’s Award on New York’s mcgarrybowen.

This group of traditional-agency veterans are leading a very untraditional trend—small independent shops carving into and then carrying off top-tier creative accounts. And in just 30 months, they have parlayed their experience and relationships into blue-chip assignments that have some calling mcgarrybowen one of the most successful startups in recent memory. With a roster that boasts Verizon, Marriott International and four new clients won last year—Crayola, Reebok, Chase and Indiplon—the shop has proven that old-fashioned agency virtues of top-level client connections and hands-on leadership still work. Andrew McMains gets to the heart of the matter starting on page 22.

Congratulations to all the winners.