Agency of the Year 2009: Boutique of the Year: Spark

Lighting up

Spark Communications often operates in the shadows of its bigger brethren Starcom and MediaVest, but the entrepreneurial spirit of the media boutique helped it stand out and differentiate itself in a way that the more established Publicis' media brands could not during 2009. Catering to brands that might be treated like stepchildren in bigger media shops, or servicing media for small to midsize agencies, Spark made some, well, sparks for its clients during 2009 with innovative and strategically positioned work that might not have been possible in bigger organizations. While much of Spark's industry leadership is derived from its connection with Publicis' VivaKi digital and media services holding company structure, its innovation is its ability to apply that directly at a boutique servicing level that a new class of marketers can benefit from.

The unique approach worked, helping both Spark and its expanding client roster thrive during what was otherwise a fairly dismal year for the industry. Spark CEO Ken Zasky and his team leveraged their access to VivaKi's best-in-class tools, analytics and resources - including partnerships with Google and Microsoft - to deliver clout, scale and innovation.

In fact, the Spark team does not consider itself a media shop, so much as a new media model. Born out of Starcom MediaVest's Starlink unit, the agency has shaken its reputation as a B-to-B media shop, and taken on some of the best-known consumer brands out there, including TGI Friday's, for which it created "Woody," a social media phenomenon who gave away more than 500,000 free hamburgers on Facebook; or E*Trade's hilarious spokesbaby, for which Spark created a YouTube channel that made the campaign the second most downloaded video of the year.

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