It’s time for our US agency of 2019, advertiser and best campaign of the year

US Agency of the Year: Wieden + Kennedy

While its competitors spend time and energy getting worked up about new agency models and the speed of change, Wieden+Kennedy coolly continues to build on its core proposition by concentrating on making outstanding creative work.

The agency does digital, of course, but seems to weave that into its output pretty effortlessly and without undue fanfare, like the “Finger Lickin’ Good Dating Simulator” for KFC.

Impactful work for big brands like the Bud Light Super Bowl ad, “Built Ford Proud” and the Nike film celebrating women’s football made it a good creative year for the agencies in Portland and New York, plus they were still picking up awards for the 2018 Colin Kaepernick “Dream crazy” work all year.

That kind of creative impact is attractive to new clients: W+K New York took lead agency status on McDonald’s from We Are Unlimited (the agency set up by DDB to service the client), and also won Facebook, HBO and Fisher Price.

W+K was also awarded more work by Ford alongside new AOR BBDO – its shock 2018 new business triumph – as well as expanding its relationship with Coca-Cola, AB InBev, KFC and Samsung. In December, AB InBev handed W+K the business for Michelob Ultra, which as a light beer grew 14 per cent to become the US’s fifth best selling beer, even before W+K got hold of it.

There were some losses, mainly newer brands like Instagram, Lyft, and Tinder, which shows that, for W+K at least, the big corporate clients are still better building blocks for an agency (even an independent one).

Advertiser of the Year: Ikea

For its consistently good work and its success at applying local relevance to a global strategy, Ikea is MAA’s advertiser of the year 2019. In the UK, Mother holds the reigns, and has made some memorable ads this year, culminating in the Christmas spot, which brought grime music to the masses and found a new formula that made more traditional festive ads look old hat (below.) Mother also created a great social campaign that dared to admit kids and home assembly can be a pain, and kicked off 2019 with another refreshing ad, this one for beds and set in a nightclub.

Thanks in large part to Kemi Anthony, its UK & Ireland advertising director, Ikea’s marketing is diverse and inclusive but never tokenistic or preachy, positioning the retailer as a modern brand for literally everybody.

At the same time, Ikea has also captured the zeitgeist by prioritising the environment in a way that’s a natural part of its activities. There were the environmental protection boats – giant versions of one of their best-known toys – sent out to clean up the waterways around its Greenwich store, and Proximity London’s campaign suggesting imaginative new uses for your old Ikea stuff. Anomaly Amsterdam also launched a global “accidental environmentalists” climate change campaign, showing how even the most unlikely individuals can save the planet without realising it.

Campaign of the Year: Sony PlayStation

Adam&eve won the global PlayStation business from BBH New York just before James Murphy and David Golding left to put together another start up. The resulting campaign is our best of the year and demonstrates that the agency is doing just fine without the founding partners.

The scale of the campaign is part of what makes it stand out – an extended effort with multiple executions is rare these days – but more than that, the creative confidence and exhilarating impact make PlayStation an undisputed winner.

Gaming is a surprisingly difficult category to do well, perhaps because there are so many options with both the real and the virtual worlds at an agency’s disposal. But adam&eve has entertained audiences with ideas as well as SFX, creating a cohesive, multi-faceted campaign where each execution builds the momentum as well as standing on its own.

Bringing great directors on board like Frederic Planchon also helps. He is responsible for the standout commercial, “Feel the Power of Pro.”

Tomorrow: UK Agency of the Year, Network of the Year and Media Agency of the Year.

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