Agency of the Year 2005: Editor's Letter

I can almost hear the kvetching now: "Media magazine is in Starcom's vest pocket." Fair enough. After only three years of publishing our annual Agency of the Year Awards, Starcom has swept all three. Actually, Starcom MediaVest Group took top honors in 2003 and 2004, while a stand-alone Starcom has won for this past year. The Publicis media group unit has so dominated for the past several years that we felt it only fair to nominate its distinct operating units.

I will admit flat out that the process is somewhat subjective. We consider objective criteria such as new business wins, net media billings gains, major industry awards, and other measurable criteria. But we've always leaned heavily on such intangible factors as strategic thinking, innovation, creativity, and, most of all, industry leadership.

There are two kinds of awards competitions run by trade magazines. There are those that rotate winners on an equitable basis, ensuring that ultimately everyone gets a fair seat at the table. Personally, I think this kind of award has little or no merit. If you're the best in a field during a given year, then it stands to reason that you'll be best in that field more than one year in a row. That's the second approach, taken by such highly regarded magazine competitions as Institutional Investor's annual "All Star" report. It's not uncommon for the same Wall Street analysts to win this honor years in a row, racking up formidable dynasties until some up-and-comer proves their stock and unseats them.

That's the way I'd like you to think of Media's Agency of the Year Awards. Starcom happens to have had an incredible run, both in terms of new business, but also in terms of industry leadership. That's not to say it's the only one. Both Carat and OMD were close on its heels, and even Horizon Media -- the only true independent of its size in the business -- is starting to build steam.

Of course, it's not just the big media shops that are driving innovation. We're seeing it everywhere in the business -- even among smaller media boutiques like General Motor Corp.'s dedicated GM Planworks unit, our choice for Media Boutique of the Year. As a whole new generation of risk-taking, creative-oriented shops are proving, media innovation isn't a pure-play situation. Increasingly it's happening within integrated, full-service shops.

In the category of Media Department of the Year, we honor Crispin, Porter + Bogusky if for no better reason than its sheer guts and pure imagination. Crispin got our attention by showing that media and content are inextricably entwined, and when it works correctly, the medium truly can be the message.

Last but not least, our first Media Client of the Year is Procter & Gamble. What's that you say? Uninspired? We don't think so. It was largely on the basis of the moves P&G put into place over the past few years -- its simultaneous push to improve both the art and the science of media -- that inspired us to reformat this magazine. If you haven't figured that out by now, just look at the tag line under our cover logo.

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