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The MAA US Agency of the Year is…Droga5

US Stand Out Agencies, Campaigns and Deals of 2014

I put these thoughts together, but before sending over to Stephen at MAA I wanted to make sure I’d made no glaring omissions. So I ran it by Jerry Judge at Fearless here in NY. Jerry knows a thing or two about advertising, agencies and the US market. And importantly to me, a fine lunch companion.

No Mad Men three martini lunch of old, but our discussion was accompanied by a remarkably acceptable bottle of vino; a little end of year spirit to discuss our end of year list, and some excellent fresh linguini with clams at Jerry’s favourite restaurant.

But enough of the lunch let’s talk about what we agreed on.

 

Stand Out Agencies Of The Year

Droga 5

Hard to argue with this one. The ‘Mega Huge Football Game’ for Newcastle Brown was spectacular and all over the media (with no real media money I suppose, that was the idea). The films featured Anna Kendrick, Kewshawn Johnson, a cannonade of trailers, storyboards, focus groups and ‘off the record’ interviews. The #ifwemadeit campaign was brilliantly planned and executed throughout.


Their ‘I will what I want’ for Under Armour (which they picked up within seconds of Puma taking their business away …I’m sure Puma are starting to second guess this decision) was really strong. The best piece featured Misty Copeland of the American Ballet Theatre on a stylized performance set accompanied by a narration of the devastating rejection note from a Ballet company she received as a youngster.


A healthy dose of new business: Dun & Bradstreet, Toyota, Jockey, Reckitt Benckiser and Georgia Pacific didn’t harm them either.

 

Wieden+Kennedy

Still crazy after all these years.

Win business. Do something great. Lose business.

But maybe that’s show biz/the Wieden way.

It’s a great agency and one hard to ignore for 2014. They’ve refreshed the other parts of Old Spice with the ‘Momstory’ followed by ‘Dadstory’ to great acclaim.

They put out charmingly insightful Christmas moments in new work for The Gap directed by Sophia Coppola. The Christmas campaign included 10 stunningly simple online art films for their holiday gift guide.

The campaign for Booking.com (from W+K’s Amsterdam branch) is still one of the best pieces of branding I’ve ever seen.

And the new brand work for Dodge cars finally appears to be giving that brand a reason to be.

Not a great new business year, and the loss of their Kraft business towards the end of the year is difficult to be swept under the carpet, but a very fine year anyway.

 

BFG9000

Gerry Graff’s shop continues to come of age and grow.

Great Cannes winning work on Climate Change where such unlikely bedfellows as the Guardian and Esquire magazine awarded it #1 campaign and ‘best.idea.ever’ respectively.

Even Dan Wieden declared he’d wished he’d done it.

They’ve been continuing to develop the smart and different approach for Ragu sauces. And finally, and most importantly, with the ‘stick it’ campaign they’ve produced great work for Go Daddy that hasn’t made the American public cringe with embarrassment.

Not a stellar new business year. But I’d keep an eye on them to fix that in 2015.

 

US Smart Move of the Year

Crispin Porter+Bogusky

Last year it was Droga5 selling 49 per cent to William Morris Endeavor.

This year it’s not quite as sexy but the move to bring Richard Pinder’s organization, London-based The House Worldwide, into the company appears, at the outset, a smart one. CP+B’s traditional creativity, innovation and feistiness forging with some impressive global management capabilities should create a formidable package in 2015, and give them the ability to move them to the next level. Evidence suggests it can.

Not sure how much effect that had on the Global Infiniti win, but I’m sure it didn’t harm them.

 

US Best Piece Of Work In 2014 You Never Thought Would Come From That agency

SS&K:HBO GO.

‘Don’t watch Game of Thrones (and other raunchy HBO shows) with your parents’ was the quite brilliant insight, and one that perfectly sets up HBO GO as the solution. Kids, get HBO on your iPad and be off to your rooms.

Seven online films that are perfectly scripted, acted, filmed and edited. A great craft over the whole campaign. They should do well in next years’ award shows.
And all this from SS&K, an agency more steeped in the financial, political and corporate worlds. Wow, keep it up chaps. More please.

Hopefully this will also help counter the “Can’t work on a car account unless you’ve worked on a car account” culture that is still pervasive over here.

 

US Agency That Keeps Coming Up With The Goods

One of the most difficult tasks in the business is not just coming up with a great idea, but keeping it great.

A task that really sorts out the men from the boys agency-wise.

Unfortunately with the turnover of CMOs matching download speeds these days it’s more likely a new appointee abandon his or her predecessor’s task faster than the agency’s ability to fulfill it.

Regardless, it’s what great agencies have always done well.

In the US, Arnold has done a great job with Progressive in keeping ‘Flo’ fresh, relevant, lovable and watchable. Flo has just completed her 100th spot for the company and the idea still feels fresh as a daisy.

Grey has done a great job keeping their work for Direct TV at the highest creative standards. The new work introduces us to a double dose of Rob Lowe.

But our vote goes to…. The Martin Agency for GEICO

Great, consistently, fresh new ideas over the years.

Geckos, cavemen, humping camels, squealing pigs, Don Lafontaine and Little Richard, rhetorical questions, more geckos and cavemen. This year saw the launch of their umpteenth refresh of this campaign with the introduction of the ‘did you know’ campaign. And it’s one of the best. Funny, engaging, compelling but very sharp at the business end, these spots, same as Progressive and Direct TV, are basically DR spots. If the phones don’t ring, the tabs aren’t clicked, the campaign is mercilessly killed.

A tough environment to do great creative work. But the best ones do.

And every day.

So 2014.That Was The Year That Was. All in all a very decent one or ‘vintage’ if we wished to venture back to the lunch.

But we need a winner.

Our US Agency of the Year is Droga5.

Congatulations to all the contenders.

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About Michael Lee

Michael Lee
Michael Lee is a former ECD of Euro RSCG New York handling Volvo Worldwide. Born in England, he spent 20 years working on integrated accounts including Intel, JP Morgan, ExxonMobil and Jaguar. In 2012 he set up agency search consultancy Madam.
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