The Greatest Story Never Told

We are the stories we tell, and the stories others tell about us. Well, we are certainly more than that, but a good part of how we think about people and the organizations they are part of, is the stories we build up about them over time. What follows is the best stories we came across about the agencies and agents who did the most over the past year to shape the way people use media to tell stories about brands. It is nothing more than that. It is not very scientific. But it is very human. We depended on humans to tell us why they, or the people they work with, deserved to be agency of the year for 2010 based on these simple criteria: strategic vision, innovation and industry leadership. We did not conduct any surveys. We did not ask anyone to fill out any questionnaires. And we do not purport that our method is representative of all the agencies and agents who did innovative and industry-leading work during 2010. In fact, we know it is not. I can tell you as a journalist who has covered the advertising and media industry for 30 years that some people do not want or do not know how to tell their stories. I'm not always sure why, because I believe that the people in our business are the most talented communicators the world has ever known.

Over the years, some have told me that they consider what they do to be "confidential" and "proprietary." These awards are not for them. Others, I'm deducing, simply do not care, or do not agree with the way we handle things. These awards are not for them either. They are for those people who are so passionate about what they do and convinced that they do it better than the next guy, that they want to shout it for the world to hear. And we listened. Actually, we listen all the time. We listen when they speak to us directly. We even listen when they speak to others and break the news about their significant achievements in the pages or on the screens of the people we compete most directly with. We don't hold that against them. We just want to know what their stories are so we can share them with you so that you or someone you know will be inspired to change the world, too. Got it? Good. Now please do not carp about our picks. If you don't like the fact that we often pick the same organizations over and over again, then do something about it. Tell us why you are better and deserve to win next year. Use any means you believe will be most effective, because as I've said, you are among the greatest communicators the world has ever known. So prove it. Show us.

But first a few notes about our 2010 stories. You may notice some new categories: out-of-home, hyper- local and shopper media agencies. And at least one missing from prior years: media department. Since MEDIA began recognizing agencies, and agents, the number of categories has ebbed and flowed, but mostly it has grown as we added new ones deserving of recognition. Originally, we had just one: Agency of the Year. Then, we added interactive agencies of the year. Then we spun OMMA off into its own magazine, which recognizes its own categories of interactive shops, some of which (like this year's pick, Wieden + Kennedy) are actually full-service agencies. Over the years we added categories for media departments, boutiques, clients, suppliers and even holding companies. Among the most notable changes we've observed, is that much of the criteria we celebrate the most - industry-changing innovation - is now happening more at the holding company-level within organizations like Publicis' VivaKi, WPP's GroupM, Omnicom Media Group and this year's category winner, Interpublic's Mediabrands. Those organizations have become much more of the "industry-facing" entities responsible for reshaping the media industry, while their media agency units have focused more on servicing clients and leveraging the tools developed by their holding companies to do a better job of doing that.

That system seems to be working, but it also means that the business is evolving and that much of the type of innovation we recognize is not happening at the media agency level, but in their parent organizations. That's one reason why MPG won this year and for the second year in the row, because its parent Havas Media is far less centralized than its peers and its organization is generally smaller, allowing the real action to happen at the agency level, inside MPG and Media Contacts.

Watch for the categories we recognize in these awards to continue to evolve over time, just like the industry these agencies and agents serve. Some may be back. Some may not. And some new ones may emerge.

Lastly, I'd like to make a special note about one we omitted this year: media department. For the past two years, we awarded Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, even though (and maybe because of) it claims to have gotten rid of its media department and integrated media into its overall brand and communications strategy. When Goodby communications chief Josh Spanier asked me about that, I explained that it wasn't a reflection on the work the agency was doing in media. In fact, it did as good a job in 2010 as any year prior. I said we had simply retired Goodby from consideration, because in our estimation they now qualify for a new recognition altogether: Agency of the Perennial. Come to think of it, there are others who likely qualify for that distinction - agencies and agents whose work is so consistent and so sublime year after year, which they have helped reshape the way we think of advertising, media and communications. Call it a "hall of fame," a "lifetime achievement" or whatever you'd like, but I'm thinking it's time to add a new awards category altogether: we may just call it the Media Perennials. Stay tuned.

Next story loading loading..