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Bbdo the Big Won Rankings

The Directory Big Won rankings – the Editor’s commentary


By Patrick Collister, head of design

January 26, 2016 | 13 min read

An overview of this year's The Big Won Directory results by Patrick Collister.

Little and large

For very different reasons, the two stand-out agencies of 2015 are BBDO New York and Leo Burnett Beirut.

BBDO New York is a large agency by anyone’s reckoning. But it appears to apply ‘the work, the work, the work’ mantra equally across all its portfolio of brands.

Put it this way, the agency won 129 separate awards for 45 separate pieces of work on behalf of 16 different brands.

The No.2 agency, R/GA, by contrast, picked up 58 awards for 17 campaigns.

Grabarz + Partner, No.3, won 52 awards but 45 of them were for one campaign, ‘Nazis Against Nazis’ for EXIT Deutschland.

What’s more, BBDO NY did not just win in the traditional media categories of TV, press, outdoor and radio but also in a remarkable suite of categories, including Branded Content, Digital, Gaming & Music, Integrated, Promo & Activation and Social Media.

Perhaps the only other agency in the Top 10 with the same sort of breadth and depth of work is Colenso BBDO Auckland with 62 awards won by 25 ideas.

At the other end of the scale and pretty much on the other side of the world is Leo Burnett Beirut. CCO Bechara Mouzannar commands perhaps one fifth of the number of people as BBDO CCO David Lubars and yet, with such slender resources, has managed to project his agency into the No.4 position. He himself is the world’s top creative chief, thanks in part to the work of Leo Burnett Dubai and Leo Burnett Egypt.

This is a story of how creativity is helping a small country retain its pride and optimism at a time it is under intense pressure from outside sources. With a population of just four million, Lebanon is playing host to two million refugees. With Israel on one side, Syria on the other and Hezbollah within, this is a country insisting on behaving normally despite abnormal circumstances.

Leo Burnett Beirut’s campaign ‘Keep the Flame Alive’ for Johnnie Walker addresses the nation’s plight head on; a whisky brand insisting the situation is not hopeless.

Similarly, the ‘Lebanon4Sale’ campaign persuaded ordinary people that they could actually do something about corruption.

So, the agency has persuaded a couple of its clients that their advertising can give the silent citizenry a voice.

The network with the most No.1s

Over the last six or seven years, the whole Leo Burnett group has shrugged off its cardigan and become creatively edgier. Leo Burnett Sri Lanka produced some brilliant work (‘Mosquito repellant Newspaper’ for Ceylon Times, for instance) and with a larger awards budget would almost certainly have ranked higher than No.175 in the agencies’ list.

While BBDO agencies were No.1 in 11 markets, Leo Burnett was not far behind with No.1 spots in Argentina, Australia, Canada, Italy, Lebanon and Sri Lanka.

Ogilvy’s performance looks strongest in Asia, with No.1 rankings in China, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Thailand as well as No.1 in South Africa.

Behind Ogilvy with five is Y&R with four No.1s, in Chile, Czech Republic, Hungary and Turkey.

DDB has three No.1 agencies, in Poland, Spain and the UK.

And McCann has two No.1s, in India and Romania.

The influence of advertising for charities

That said, what might be called ‘Don’t’ advertising has skewed this year’s results as much, if not more, than previous years.

There was Don’t go on the railway tracks in ‘Dumb Ways to Die’ from McCann Melbourne in 2013; there was Don’t let paedophiles get away with it from Lemz Amsterdam in 2014 with ‘Sweetie’.

And this year, Don’t let the Nazis invade the small town of Wunsiedel from Grabarz + Partner is the world’s No.1 creative campaign, followed at No.2 spot by Don’t let the Spanish government prevent us from protesting, ‘Holograms for Freedom’ from DDB Spain for No Somos Delito.

No.4, ‘#likeagirl’ is Don’t patronize girls; No.6, ‘Proud Whopper’, is Don’t be a homophobe; No.7, “Keep the Flame Alive” is Don’t lose hope; No.8, ‘Love has No Labels’ is Don’t be ageist, racist or homophobic.

Take out all the campaigns for NGOs and charities and the rankings look different.

Note that BBDO agencies and Leo Burnett agencies win most of their awards for clients with commercial objectives.

Note also that Droga5 is the only Top 10 agency to have done no pro-bono work at all in 2015, this being the agency that built its reputation almost entirely on work for NGOs of one sort or another.

With charity/NGO advertisingWithout

1. BBDO New York4711. BBDO New York406

2. R/GA, New York3992. Adam&eve DDB London321

3. Grabarz & Partner3633. Droga5 New York 294

4. Leo Burnett Beirut3514. R/GA New York273

5. adam&eveDDB London3215. Leo Burnett Beirut 256

6. Colenso BBDO, Auckland3196. Leo Burnett Toronto255

7. Droga5 New York2947. AMV BBDO London252

8. Dentsu Tokyo Japan2728. Colenso BBDO Auckland235

9. DDB Spain Madrid2709. The Martin Agency220

10. Leo Burnett Toronto 26310. Wieden+Kennedy UK209

What happened to the new kids on the block?

Over the last ten years or so, there have been a number of new agencies that seemed to adapt to change faster and better than the big network agencies.

Today, however, where are Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Shackleton, Goodby Silverstein, Fallon or Scholz & Friends, to name a few?

Instead, the big network agencies continue to prosper by investing in talent and through the strength of the relationships they have with their clients.

In turbulent times, trust is fundamental and the big shops with an emphasis on account management are the agencies that have persuaded their clients to experiment and to innovate.

BBDO New York, almpapBBDO Sao Paulo, AMV BBDO London, Colenso BBDO Auckland and even BBDO Malaysia have been in the Top 20 every year for the past five years.

Adam&eve DDB London as well.

Ogilvy Frankfurt and Ogilvy Paris have consistently been high achievers as have the Leo Burnetts of Beirut, Chicago and Toronto.

In fact, most of these agencies have been more consistent than the independents. Wieden+Kennedy London, Amsterdam and Portland have yo-yo’d up and down the rankings over the last decade. And this is Droga5’s first ever visit to the Top 10 (41st in 2014, 145th in 2013, 147th in 2012, 23rd in 2011, 143rd in 2010).

Technology is changing the rankings

Technology, of course, has been the driver of change. And perhaps no agency has been more astute in staying ahead of the curve than R/GA New York. In 2015, every one of its awards came from an innovative use of tech.

‘Love has no Labels’ for the Ad Council was a brilliant use of motion tracking. But then the agency’s other winners were for innovative product ideas rather than communication ideas.

For instance, ‘Hammerhead’ was an on-bike navigation system and ranked No.20 in the top campaigns of the year and No. 8= in global digital campaigns.

Elsewhere in the year, they have won awards for new products and services developed out of their accelerator unit, such as a breathing monitor for asthma sufferers, a health monitor for babies and a device that detects disease within the DNA of crop plants.

Is it advertising?

Not as we know it.

But here’s an interesting new development.

At No.11 is Samsung’s ‘Safety Truck’ from Leo Burnett Buenos Aires; at No. 18= is ‘Clever Buoy’ for Samsung by M&C Saatchi Sydney. Essentially these are both prototypes.

However, each was the subject of a YouTube video, which then helped spread the idea around the world. Something that only a handful of people ever got to see was shared with millions.

The prototype itself became brand communication.

In the case of ‘Clever Buoy’, tracking studies showed that positive sentiment towards Optus as a technology brand increased 84 per cent.

So, brands don’t have to ‘say’ any longer. They have to ‘do’.

Increasingly, brands that make stuff are using PR skillfully to let that stuff speak for them.

Burger King in Miami didn’t run an ad saying ‘Congratulations to the LGBT community in Gay Pride Week’. They made a load of rainbow-coloured wrappers for their burgers, printed with the message ‘We are all the same inside’ – and won a ton of awards, coming in at No.6 in the top campaigns of the year.

Vangardist made an entire magazine, printed with ink mixed with the blood of HIV-positive people. And came in at No.13.

McCann Paris made an app for l’Oreal. ‘Makeup Genius’ sparked hundreds of millions of media impressions as well as being downloaded 1.7 million times. And came in at No.18=.

In fact, traditional advertising campaigns are few and far between in the upper rankings.

adam&eve DDB continue to show how it is done with their work for John Lewis (‘Monty’s Christmas’ coming in at No.12) and Harvey Nichols.

Also in the UK, Ogilvy London had the world’s top print campaign with their flags campaign for ’28 Too Many’ in at No. 22.

Selling stuff

What is rare in the rankings is work that actually sets out to sell, to shift product.

Most of the ideas in the Top 20 seem to have been designed to create some sort of big emotional response.

#Likeagirl is about behavior change; as indeed is ‘Keep the Flame Alive’ for Johnnie Walker in Lebanon, Grey New York’s ‘Gun Shop’ and even ‘Love Has No Labels’ from R/GA.

The exceptions that prove the rule, work that actually talks about a product benefit of some sort, is No.3, ‘Unskippable’ for Geico from The Martin Agency, ‘The Other Side’ at No. 10 for Honda by Wieden+Kennedy London and BBDO Malaysia’s press ads for KFC, ‘Drumstick’, ‘Burger’ and ‘Fries’.

Jurors in 2015 seemed disproportionately hard on advertising with commercial objectives. Ideas that had been expected to do well and which didn’t include Ogilvy Frankfurt’s brilliant ‘Rabbit Race’ for Media Markt, in at No.51, and ‘Radiant Returns’ from DDB Melbourne in at No.179.


Over the last three years, the rise and rise of the Chief Creative Officer has been inexorable. It used to be that there were only a handful of CCOs. These were big beasts who commanded networks or vast resources. People like David Lubars, CCO of BBDO Worldwide or Mark Tutssel of Leo Burnett.

But this year there were 407 of them. It seems that being an ECD is no longer enough.

Some pieces of work now have as many as eight creative directors named.

And how is it possible for one press ad to have five art directors?

One radio campaign from Brazil had no fewer than 16 different people attached to its creation, three of whom were copywriters.

What next?

If there is anything predictable about the future it is that those who try to do it invariably get it wrong. But what the heck! Here goes anyway.

Google Cardboard won the Grand Prix for Mobile at Cannes in 2015. But strangely, most of the earliest uses of 3D and VR have won little.

‘Lifelive’ from Leo Burnett Sydney, a demonstration of Samsung VR technology, came in a lowly 167 and ‘Shark Dive in the Desert’ ranked 414. Google’s own ‘Spotlight Stories’ won nothing at all.

So in 2016, expect to see someone somewhere amaze us with 360.

In 2015, there were still more awards in Film and TV than in Digital, 693 to 614, but expect that to be reversed in 2016 as digital media consumption itself rises.

Expect also to see more creative uses of messaging apps like ‘Tinnyvision’ from Colenso BBDO Wellington for the New Zealand Transport Agency at No.214. And look out for brands popping up even more frequently in Tinder though they may not all expect to win prizes.

Branded Content will get broader and deeper and get even more people scratching their heads than they did in 2014, asking ‘what IS Branded Content?’

In 2015, an air-conditioning unit won an award as Branded Content. In 2016, IKEA may well enter their entire product range into this category and be rewarded.

Press and print juries will finally start to reward innovation. Saatchi & Saatchi Switzerland paved the way in 2015 with ‘The HIV Issue’ for Vangardist Magazine. Great work that deserved better in 2015 includes Leo Burnett Sri Lanka’s genius idea for Ceylon Newspapers, ‘The Mosquito repellant Newspaper’ and Publicis Dubai’s press ad for the Chrysler 3000 which established a Bluetooth connection to your smartphone so you could use it to play music.

Electronics and paper are about to get it together.


Your personal rankings provided

If you would like to know what your own ranking is as a writer, art director or creative director, please email Similarly, if you would like to know your agency’s ranking in the world and in your own country. Please be patient as we get a lot of requests.

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