AKQA heads for Portland, home of Nike and W+K

You can imagine the conversation can’t you – Ajaz Ahmed of AKQA (left) and Sir Martin Sorrell (not for the first time).

“Look Ajaz, come in with us and we’ll back AKQA to be the biggest and best digital network in the world.”

“It already is.”

“Well even bigger and better than it is now.”

Then the difference.

“OK, I want to do this, this and this.”

And, lo, it came to pass (with a $540m sweetener).

AKQA, now majority-owned by WPP, is busy spending its new parent’s money, opening two new US offices in Portland and Atlanta, bringing its total to five. Portland is particularly interesting as that’s the home of its biggest client Nike and also the home of Nike’s main traditional agency Wieden+Kennedy, which is not short of digital expertise and ambitions itself.

The two often collaborate on campaigns of course but you can imagine the odd turf war breaking out when they’re just down the road from each other. But Portland isn’t just about W+K, it’s rapidly becoming a West Coast tech hub to rival San Francisco and Seattle.

AKQA chairman Tom Bedecarre says: “We are experiencing strong demand across all regions, so we are expanding to enhance our ability to make new connections and deliver solutions for clients globally. As dynamic business centers for many of the world’s most innovative companies, Atlanta and Portland are home to organizations that share our entrepreneurial spirit.

“The opening of our new offices in Portland and Atlanta represents our commitment to a rich technology ecosystem and talent pool. AKQA is focused on building the future; these new locations complement our presence in New York, San Francisco and Washington D.C. giving us the opportunity to interact deeply with vibrant creative and technology communities.”

Getting behind AKQA makes good commercial sense for WPP (all that money needs justifying after all) and will heap further pressure on rival network Omnicom to raise its digital game. Interpublic has R/GA, currently busy expanding around the world, while Publicis Groupe has more digital agencies than you can shake a stick at, most recently LBi which it plucked from under the nose of Omnicom.

As for AKQA, Ahmed has always said he wants to the biggest as well as the best. All he needs to do now is stay pals with Sir Martin.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.