EdBlog: The Sweet Science

MahoneyOMMA salutes the toughest 12

For OMMA, choosing this year’s Agency of the Year winners was more like emceeing a street brawl than narrating a beauty pageant. As the lines between digital disciplines get sketchier, we’re constantly a little dizzy with the pace of updating scorecards. But we love the way a tiny agency can excel across multiple categories in this climate (Hello, Campfire!). And we’re just as impressed that among larger agencies known as digital generalists, specialized skills can be as sharp as spears. R/GA, for instance, our Gold winner in 2009, is on our list this year for its killer mobile strategies.

In fact, the way so many agencies have fought their way across category lines, we felt it was only fitting to invoke the boxing world for this year’s winners. Our heavyweight champ and Gold winner, Digitas, is a giant in every respect, but still delivering one-twos with both speed and precision. (Digitas was also our gold
winner in 2008.) Proof positive that the demand for this online prowess has gone totally mainstream? Shortly after her interview with omma, ceo Laura Lang was anointed ceo of Time Inc.

Middleweight winner AKQA, which takes this year’s Silver, has morphed from a digital boutique to industry leader, using its distinctive silo-busting organizational structure — hooking a technologist up with a creative, or a project manager with a strategist — to create cutting-edge work. (It won gold from us in 2007.) And we felt so strongly about feisty little Campfire that we created a new category: Small Agency of the Year, earning it a Bronze award. We think of this welterweight as the advertising world’s answer to Sugar Ray Leonard, with an innovative approach to work that has made it the envy of many companies ten times its size.
If you’ve been keeping score since omma started handing out these awards in 2005, you’ll know we have some firmly established categories. In addition to awards for Gold-winner Digitas and Silver-winner akqa, we also hand out Bronze to those that are best in class in Web Design and Development (this year’s winner is Digitaria), Media Planning and Buying (Mediavest), Creative (Deutsch), Search (Covario), Mobile (R/GA) and Social (HUGE).

But we’ve made changes too, in our effort to keep up with the crazy-fast pace of the omma universe. (And, yes, it also boggles our minds that Forrester Research is predicting that spending on interactive marketing in the u.s., now at $34.5 billion and about 19 percent of all marketing spending, is about to hit into $76.6 billion, or 35 percent, by 2016.)

So in addition to Campfire as the Small Agency of the Year, we’re also honoring three additional categories. For the first time, we’re including a holding company, GroupM. We couldn’t bear to leave them out, and not just because they’re ginormous, controlling about 34 percent of all advertising billings. It’s because the industry leadership they’ve shown on privacy issues, which have enormous impact on so many companies in the omma world, deserves special recognition.
As we move into an election year, we felt it was also important to recognize political advertising agencies, which use the Internet to communicate with voters as never before. Our winner, SS+K, which so successfully courted the online youth vote for the Obama campaign in 2008, distinguished itself with its ever-greater insights into the way Gen Y thinks, clicks and votes.

And we added a category for best viral video. You know the stats as well as we do, but they bear repeating: eMarketer estimates that some 160 million u.s. Internet users will watch online videos regularly this year. And of the 71.6 percent of adults who do so, 39 percent watch between one and five hours per week, according to Burst. Yes, that’s a lot of csi, Katy Perry, and sneezing pandas. But to ad agencies, it’s an amazingly powerful — if elusive — connection, with 18.2 percent of viewers either visiting a brand site or making a purchase based on a video. So as video continues its crossover into social and mobile, the potential reach of a great piece has grown exponentially. But while every client may be asking its agencies for a video worthy of YouTube fame, few agencies can create one. We chose Definition 6 not just because it can, but because of its bigger strategic vision: Making a hit that’s true to a brand takes a lot more than a talking Siberian husky.
We’d love to hear what you think of our winners. Email us at

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