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World Creative Rankings Agencies Agency Leadership

How to think like Rethink, the world’s most-awarded creative agency


By Sam Bradley, Journalist

February 29, 2024 | 4 min read

Rethink has been named the best creative agency in North America and, indeed, the world in The Drum’s World Creative Rankings. Strategy chief Sean McDonald explains how it’s improved both revenue and rankings.

Heinz-Sauce 01

Rethink’s work for Heinz was one of the campaigns it was praised for in the last year / Rethink

It’s not easy to keep improving, year after year. Motivation and momentum can plateau once one reaches the higher slopes; silver is, after all, a very nice metal.

Clearly that’s not the case at Rethink, the indie Canadian agency ranked as the best creative shop in the industry, according to this year’s edition of The Drum’s World Creative Rankings. The agency attained those heights after previously finishing fourth.

For Sean McDonald, global chief strategy officer, that’s a result of “continual” evolution at the company. “Spin is sin,” he tells The Drum, implying that the best work comes from creatives constantly moving forward, rather than resting on their laurels.

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“Our motivation is always to make great work and to make that more likely, we work diligently to build trusted, candid relationships to reduce inefficiency (which is ultimately a huge pain point for all involved).

“Doing that allows for alignment in strategy and genuine conversations around the work that ultimately let all Rethinkers and clients alike do what they like to do most with each other: make great work that people talk about.”

Last year, Rethink grew both organic revenue from clients Frito-Lay and Kraft-Heinz, and added Uber Eats and Peacock to its roster.

The agency’s leaders spend a lot of time, he says, arguing the case for high-quality creative work to clients. “It’s all we ever talk about,” he says. “There isn’t one relationship in the agency where that isn’t the ambition, and we share that with all of our clients. The opposite seems absurd; if we weren’t talking about good work, why would we want to work together?”

Key to winning those arguments and making them pay off commercially, he says, is prioritizing chemistry with clients.

“We continually evolve our story as we gain experience, but our approach to finding and establishing new relationships remains steadfastly the same. Our priority is to genuinely get to know each other, understand each other’s motivations and ensure there is alignment in values and approach so that we can create a foundation for success.”

McDonald says the agency’s priority this year, as it looks forward to a (hopefully) easier economy, is to grow the agency in the US. Rethink opened an NYC branch in its southern neighbor last year.

“We have grown a lot as an agency and continue to value our ability to create globally celebrated work, consistently. Every time Rethink has grown, we learn more – and that has been especially true with our New York office that launched in January of 2023.

“Our focus is to continue to support our global growth while also encoding the learning from the growth back into our other offices and the culture of Rethink at large.”

World Creative Rankings Agencies Agency Leadership

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