What recession? While the agency business was hit hard by the economic downturn last year, AKQA enjoyed one of its "most productive and fruitful years ever," says AKQA global creative director Rei Inamoto.
Notably, AKQA managed to make creative strides - particularly in the areas of social media and mobile - without the benefit of big budgets. Case in point: Budget concerns came into play when AKQA set out to launch the VW 2010 GTI. In fact, the decision was made to go exclusively mobile - this was the first time a new car was launched via mobile - due to financial constraints, says Inamoto.
But that didn't put the brakes on creativity. AKQA created an iPhone and iPod Touch app, collaborating with game studio Firemint to produce a Volkswagen-branded version of the popular Real Racing game. The pairing proved to be a smart one, by the way - Real Racing gti has been downloaded over two million times, with more than one million of those downloads occurring during the first week of release.
Elsewhere, AKQA refashioned Gap's existing Facebook page to get people talking about - and, more important, wearing - Gap denim as part of the Born to Fit campaign, which also included the creation of StyleMixer, an iPhone shopping tool that allows users to create virtual closets in which they can mix items from their current wardrobes with clothing from Gap, and get feedback on the looks. Given that no one wears one brand head-to-toe, this mix-and-match approach makes sense to the consumer, but wasn't Gap afraid to give us the freedom to see how, say, a J. Crew blazer would work with Gap Boyfriend jeans? "We definitely had to convince them," says Inamoto. "I hadn't heard of any examples of any fashion clients that allowed people to mix brands, especially within the context of a campaign."
Now while VW and Gap came to AKQA with specific challenges, the agency is also known to approach its clients with unsolicited ideas if a need isn't being filled. "As creative leader of a company, I'd like to see more of those proactive ideas," says Inamoto, "but I realize 95 percent of the time people are already working on client projects."
Still, AKQA's creative minds managed to carve out time in 2009 to conceive and pitch the What the Flip? program to Flip Video. The effort, which sought to make the digital camcorder relevant to the 12- to 24-year-oldset, teamed Flip Video with MTV and put Flip Mino camcorders into the hands of 100 college students who then made videos based on eight themes.
AKQA also approached U.S. Postal Service with a pitch - let's use augmented reality to show consumers how to determine which Flat Rate Box is right for their shipping needs. After getting the go-ahead, AKQA created the virtual box simulator hosted at PriorityMail.com. "A lot of campaigns have used augmented reality as a toy. We came at it from a utility perspective," says Inamoto. "We are driven to use technology by insights, not just for the sake of using technology."