As is traditional at this time of year, The Drum reveals its pick of the brands, agencies and work to have made the biggest impact on us in 2015.
Over the next couple of weeks, we'll be presenting our New Year Honours – celebrating the movers, shakers and mischief makers of the year – starting with the agencies to have impressed us most.
The Drum's New Year Honours will be teased out each day over the Christmas period, with the list published in full in our first issue of 2016, published on 13 January.
Agency of the year: 72andSunny
2015 got off to a strong start for 72andSunny, which has offices in LA, New York and Amsterdam, when it was appointed by Axe (Lynx in the UK) for a global brief in January. It was a winning streak that continued throughout the year as the shop picked up the global sports business account for Adidas after it approached the agency, without a review, to take responsibility for its basketball, running, soccer and women’s brand campaigns, before General Mills named it the lead agency on its Totino’s brand.
All the while 72andSunny was busy launching a new ‘brand citizenship practice’ headed up by surfer, entrepreneur and innovator Jim Moriarty, and a new ‘partnership incubator’, which teams up brands for mutually beneficial projects. The latter saw the agency play matchmaker for Carl’s Jr and Call of Duty, creating a new burger in the process.
Not only that, but it also found time to dream up an immersive VR experience for its joint venture with Marvel, Samsung and Framestore, and an outdoor campaign for Google, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act, all demonstrating its propensity for sharp, effective creative on a global scale.
Creative agency of the year: Anomaly
Diageo’s appointment of Anomaly to steer the advertising for its Gordon’s gin from 2016 onwards signals a deepening of the relationship between the two. The agency’s strong ties with the drinks maker include responsibility for Johnnie Walker’s global creative account, which kicked into action in 2015 with a global refresh for the brand.
Yet Anomaly’s successes of late aren’t pinned on alcohol alone; other significant new business wins include being named lead creative agency for Cancer Research UK and winning the creative account for Trainline. The latter has seen the agency develop the ‘I am train’ campaign coinciding with the company’s rebrand.
International agency of the year: BETC Paris
It began as a year of mixed fortunes for BETC as the Parisian stalwart lost Diet Coke as a client. However, the agency didn’t stay down for long and, as it basked in the praise for a global campaign for AirFrance, plotted one of the year’s most talked about pieces of work – McDonald’s bizarre but brilliant emoji-laden ad.
It also partnered with D&AD to create a ‘bad ad blocker’, which replaces a crappy generic pre-roll with yellow pencil winning work. Oh, and it teamed up with Universal Polydor to launch its own music label, BETC POP, which it believes will challenge the traditional music industry’s traditional models.
Experiential agency of the year: Jack Morton
With work for Wella, the Late Show, Freeview and the NYE celebrations for the Mayor of London’s Office under its belt during 2015, experiential agency Jack Morton Worldwide has continued to prove its worth by creating innovative experiences to delight consumers and brands alike. It also scooped up two accolades at The Drum’s UK Event Awards, taking home the Chairman’s Award and Grand Prix for its work with Honda and Unicef respectively.
And from awards success to hiring prowess the agency made a raft of hires last year and appointed Geometry Global’s Bruce Henderson as chief creative officer and Keith Chamarette as its director of digital, serving the London-based team’s clients.
Design agency of the year: Love
A Virgin Atlantic and Delta experience at the O2, a limited edition design of Johnnie Walker Black Label and Double Black bottles, the design for the newly re-opened Advertising Floor of the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin and the branding story of Diaego’s Dalwhinnie Winter’s Gold… phew, 2015 was a busy year for Manchester-based design and storytelling agency Love, and it shows no signs of slowing down. In November the agency was named as global lead for design by ice cream brand Häagen Dazs, initially charged with handling design direction.
The agency is headed up by chief executive Trevor Cairns who joined in 2013 from Phones4U, while Dave Palmer serves as executive creative director.
Digital media agency of the year: Essence
Prior to its purchase by WPP’s GroupM in 2015, Essence stood out as one of the industry’s few remaining large-scale independent agencies, with a client roster including some of the world’s largest brands such as EA, Visa and most notably Google.
It has been reported that it was the agency’s expertise of dealing with the latter which made it such an attractive acquisition prospect for GroupM. It was the vocal criticism of Essence’s biggest client Google from WPP chief Sir Martin Sorrell that made this purchase stand out among the many other rounds of consolidation that took place in 2015. However, GroupM’s digital chief Rob Norman claims the purchase makes more sense than would initially appear, with Essence’s expertise in using Google’s suite of ad tech tools perfectly complementing GroupM’s existing expertise in the sector (including its programmatic arm Xaxis).
The fact that Essence’s expertise in dealing with arguably the key player in the digital media sector helped GroupM overcome any prior-existing enmity between WPP and Google is testament to its fine standing in the sector.
Agency punching above its weight: Lucky Generals
In the past year, at barely three years old, Lucky Generals has amassed a client list that has swiftly made it the envy of every agency in adland. After ending 2014 with a roster that included Amazon, Pot Noodle and Absolut, it began the New Year by winning Hostelworld.com.
Then, in what co-founder Andy Nairn describes as one glorious June afternoon, it picked up £45m in billings as it landed everyone’s favourite cheeky brand Paddy Power, beat off industry behemoths to become Twitter’s first ever retained creative agency and won Popchips’ brand overhaul brief. All this with a staff of 42 working from an East London office. Bravo.
Agency to watch: Unruly Media
News Corp’s swoop on video platform Unruly this summer piqued the interest of many observers, not least because it was Rupert Murdoch’s biggest UK acquisition since the phone hacking scandal. The startup owns tech that advertisers can use to target their ads at audiences in a myriad of ways, but perhaps more interestingly is its patented ability to identify videos with the potential to go viral.
Publishers have been trying to premiumise mobile inventory for some time and in Unruly, News Corp will be hoping to do that around shareable content. With attention at a premium, the likes of News Corp want to boost their value to readers, and subsequently advertisers, with content that is consistently shared in large volumes.