iMedia is pleased to announce the winners of the 2015 iMedia Agency Awards.
The awards recognize agencies that drove industry innovation throughout the year, with special attention paid to those agencies that lead the field in strategic areas such as mobile, video, and programmatic. The awards also recognize contributions from individual marketers.
- Agency of the Year
- Small Agency of the Year
- Integrated Campaign of the Year
- Agency Marketer of the Year
- Best Agency for Video
- Best Agency for Mobile
- Best Agency for Social Media
- Best Agency for Content Marketing
- Best Direct Response Agency
- Best Agency for Multicultural Marketing
- Best Agency for Programmatic Media
- Best Agency for Search
- The Greater Good Award
- Rising Stars
Keep reading to find out who won, along with the nominees and category criteria.
Agency of the YearMEC
An agency is only as good as its talent, and that's precisely where MEC is at its most innovative. Not only was MEC honored as one of Ad Age's 50 Best Places to work, the agency recently made headlines for disrupting the often clunky and time-consuming hiring process. At this year's Advertising Week, MEC setup interviews with 16 entry-level candidates and hired some of the candidates the same day.
"If you think of how we're having to compete for talent, we really have to be much more nimble," chief talent officer Marie-Claire Barker told Adweek. "We have to be focused more on the individuals of the organization and not just the cookie-cutter approach that the industry has been guilty of in the past."
Of course, the talent still has to deliver. On that score, one of MEC's most interesting contributions this year is Velocity, a predictive model for consumer shopping that's based on the field of epidemiology.
MEC clients include AT&T, Marriott, GE, and IKEA.
- Starcom USA
Criteria: Based on the last 12 months of an agency's consistent, extraordinary, and groundbreaking work that demonstrates significant client ROI. A dominant influencer in the field whose innovative spirit makes an unparalleled contribution to the forward progress of the digital marketing industry.
Small Agency of the Year
Score two for the little guy. Not only did Piston Agency win this year's award for programmatic, it also won the Small Agency of the Year.
So how does a small agency excel in a world increasingly dominated by big agencies and even bigger holding companies? If you're Piston, it comes down to a simple creed: "Where strategic leadership and a start-up mentality intersect."
Thinking like a start-up, Piston is keen to take on whatever work its clients need, whether it involves the agency's creative chops, or its ability to maximize performance, or both.
Perhaps the best example of Piston at work is a recent integrated campaign the agency did for the San Diego Chargers, who had seen ticket sales flat line, despite years of strong performance on the field. Rather than ignoring the team's faults -- stale marketing, fans who were critical of management, fair weather fans, trade speculation, and even rumors that the team was going to leave town -- Piston chose to embrace the criticism. The result is a social and TV campaign called "We're All In."
Piston Agency clients include AARP, Cars.com, and Intuit.
Other nominees include:
- Giant Spoon
- Gravity Jack
Criteria: Based on the last 12 months of work by a small (100 employees or fewer) agency that has advanced interactive marketing through big ideas, brilliant creative, cutting-edge technology, and the passionate pursuit of excellence in the digital space.
Integrated Campaign of the Year
"Like a Girl" Leo Burnett (Chicago, London, Toronto)
The phrase "like a girl" has long had a negative connotation. But in an effort to promote its Always brand, Procter & Gamble turned to Leo Burnett to reclaim the language and give it a positive, feminist spin. Beginning last year, P&G launched the campaign with a survey that detailed some revealing findings about how and why young women tend to lose confidence their abilities. Next, the brand used two online video spots, "Like a Girl" (2014) and "Unstoppable" (2015) to encourage women to share their own experiences on social media.
To drive the conversation even further, Always partnered with TED, the nonprofit devoted to disseminating ideas, to develop and spread confidence-inspiring content through TED-Ed, an educational platform specializing in lessons worth sharing.
- "#SpeakBeautiful" for Dove Mindshare
- "Bend the Rules" for Hewlett-Packard 180LA
- "I Will What I Want" for Under Armour Droga5
- "San Diego Chargers 2015 Integrated Campaign" Piston
Criteria: A game-changing integrated campaign that expanded the scope and reach of digital marketing, drove business growth, showed how different elements work together to increase efficiency, and redefined how marketers can and should use digital media and emerging technology to further the craft of brand marketing. (Campaigns that have run since August 2014 qualify for nomination.)
Agency Marketer of the Year
Shenan Reed, President of Digital, North America, MEC
Shenan Reed is a busy marketer. She's the president of digital, North America for MEC (this year's Agency of the Year). She's an adjunct professor at two colleges -- Iona, where she teaches a course on interactive advertising, as well as the Fashion Institute of Technology. And a year after joining MEC, Reed was honored alongside three agency clients, as one of 20 recipients of AWNY's Advertising Working Mothers of the Year Award.
Reed began her career in advertising as an analyst for Spectra Marketing, working on CPG brands like Heineken, Philip Morris, and MasterCard. A proven innovator, and self-described "geek," Reed switched to digital early, becoming one of Mass Transit Interactive's first 10 employees in 2000. A little over a year later, she founded Morpheus Media, where she staked out a reputation as a leader capable of embracing digital's constant flow of change and new ideas.
Criteria: A future-forward, innovative agency marketer with big ideas, who gets results and collaborates openly to push the marketing industry forward.
Best Agency for VideoDigitasLBi
One of the reasons brands turn to video is that the channel is one of the most powerful platforms around for connecting with consumers on an emotional level. Time and again the team at DigitasLBi proved that it knows how to harness the emotive power of video.
Working for American Express, DigitasLBi unleashed #PassionProject, a campaign built around the idea that sharing your passion can empower others to pursue their dreams.
Proving that emotional video can also move product, DigitasLBi worked with Sony to craft a video campaign for its Xperia phone that went well beyond the usual talk of features and functions.
DigitasLBi clients include eBay, Nissan, and Taco Bell.
- Leo Burnett
- Team One
Criteria: Nominations in this category should represent outstanding work and should not be limited to specialty agencies only. This category should be judged based on an overall demonstration of proven success in video, innovation within the channel, solid performance, best use of technology, and a passionate pursuit of excellence in the digital space.
Best Agency for Mobile
As mobile becomes an increasingly vital channel, Horizon Media's mobile practice has focused on working with clients to ensure that they are making better use of data, technology, creative opportunities, and measurement to target audiences across devices and platforms during all phases of the consumer research and purchase cycle.
Working with the History Channel for season three of "Vikings," Horizon pioneered a native video mobile strategy to drive favorability and viewing intent. One of the key insights of the campaign, however, was the fact that many mobile devices run auto-play video with the sound off, so Horizon adapted by developing mobile-first content that relies on visuals, rather than sound, in the first few moments.
When Jack in the Box came out with a new garlic butter burger called the Buttery Jack, the fast food chain turned to Horizon to reach out to foodies and other burger lovers who hadn't visited the Jack in the Box in years. With a multi-channel campaign to raise awareness, Horizon used mobile tap-to-map ads to drive customers near the bottom of the sales funnel to nearby locations.
Horizon Media clients include Stoli and the Wildlife Conservation Society.
- Fresh Digital Group
- Gravity Jack
- M&C Saatchi Mobile
- Team Detroit
Criteria: This category favors agencies that consistently generate effective advertising campaigns on mobile platforms, and show innovative use of the mobile space (i.e., location-enabled campaigns, etc.). Nominations should be judged on overall demonstration of proven success, innovation, aesthetics, and flawless use of the technology.
Best Agency for SocialDeep Focus
Deep Focus prides itself on building culturally connected brands. To do that, the agency emphasizes research and strategy, technology, content, and social distribution to create culture, rather than disrupt it.
Working with Lay's to double customer input on new flavor ideas, Deep Focus offered up a new, socially driven twist on a classic cultural concept -- the jingle.
Tasked with raising awareness about the new features of Xbox's FIFA 14 video game, Deep Focus leveraged the real world passion of soccer fans to create a real media event, which in turn led the world to discover precisely what was so cool about that installment of the game.
Deep Focus clients include Purina, Starbucks, and Intel.
- Beeby Clark+Meyler
- Edelman Digital
- Home Brew
- Likeable Media
Criteria: Based on agencies that consistently create effective and groundbreaking social media campaigns. Creativity, uniqueness, penetration, and brand relevance are principal criteria in this category.
Best Agency for Content Marketing
Content is king and 360i wears the crown.
Continuing its work for Oscar Mayer, 360i had a little fun at the expense of dating apps like Tinder and Grindr. But 360i didn't just parody those apps -- it actually built a working, bacon-based dating app called Sizzl. Users download the app, customize their profile, and specify their bacon preferences. Then they're only a swipe away from love, or perhaps just a bacon buddy.
Poking fun at social media, 360i helped the History Channel "rampage" across Twitter in a promotion for the show "Vikings." The campaign encouraged fans to launch coordinated attacks on popular hashtags such as #ManCrushMonday and #ThrowbackThursday and "conquer" them with Vikings content. To fuel the effort, 360i created dozens of relevant GIFs for fans to use in the raids.
360i clients include HBO, Mattel, and Oreo.
- The Content Collective - Omnicom Media Group
- Deep Focus
Criteria: Nominees should be judged on their ability to tell a story through content, collaborate with publishers, and innovate across multiple digital media channels including video (original long form and episodic) and product integration. Solid performance, best use of technology, seamless integration, consistency, and novelty are all factors to consider.
Best Direct Response Agency
Rapp isn't your father's direct response agency. Instead, Rapp focuses on what it calls Core Dialog, the agency's shorthand for direct relationships between consumers and brands. From a practitioner standpoint that means Rapp touches on five areas: CRM, curated social engagement, mobile convergence, gamification, and digital commerce.
To help Shell make a meaningful connection with the truck drivers it serves in Brazil, Rapp re-launched a loyalty program called Shell Brother Trucker. On the road, where WiFi connectivity is limited, Shell used text messages to help keep truckers moving by reminding them to renew their drives licenses. Meanwhile, the program's website served as a hub for Q&A forums, safety tips, and even financial advice. And when members stopped at truck stops, they found member-only relaxation rooms with internet and TV. But most impressive of all, Shell was able to deploy data across all channels to personalize the experience for its members.
Working with Toyota, Rapp helped the car brand move from a single-blast email that went to the 2 million people who had opted-in to receive Toyota messaging, to a more nuanced framework for dialog. Using CRM/CMR, Rapp refined the audience's relevance by the opt-in location -- a concert, the dealership, or a sports event, for example. Using curated social media, Rapp then helped Toyota tailor its content in channels ranging from online to direct mail.
Rapp clients include Pepsi, Virgin Media, and Sony.
- M&C Saatchi Mobile
- R2C Group
Criteria: Agencies that produce effective multi-disciplinary performance marketing strategies encompassing lead generation, search, affiliate marketing, and interactive media, based on a clear understanding of how client businesses work. Agencies should demonstrate a superior ability to differentiate their clients' offerings from the crowd, effectively target possible customers with action-oriented messaging and response mechanisms, and accurately measure outcomes.
Best Agency for Multicultural Marketing
With its Provoke Daily blog, Dieste prides itself on educating marketers about the challenges and opportunities of reaching a multicultural audience. But when it comes to the work, Dieste proves that great creative ideas can have a universal appeal.
Perhaps the best example of the Dieste sensibility is "Adoptable Trends," a campaign that raised awareness about shelter animals by naming them after trending online topics.
Of course, as a multicultural specialist, Dieste is also comfortable working in both English and Spanish, as evidenced by this spot for Cricket Wireless.
Dieste clients include Goya, Miller Lite, and Pizza Hut.
Other nominees include:
- The Axis Agency
- Burrell Communications
- Grupo Gallegos
Criteria: Agencies that consistently develop creative, strategic, and innovative approaches to ethnicity-targeted marketing. Agencies should show creative excellence, consistent client ROI, and relevancy to the multicultural category they target.
Best Agency for Programmatic Media
The rise of programmatic has brought more money and efficiency to digital, but unfortunately it has also given rise to a cottage industry of jargon. So what exactly does programmatic mean? When Piston Agency clients ask that question, they get a 30-point evaluation protocol designed to help them align their goals with any of the major technology vendors they choose to work with.
Working with online retailer ThinkGeek, Piston helped the brand reduce its cost of customer acquisition by 20 percent, in part, by proving the incremental value of programmatic display. To do that, Piston segmented out returning customers from new ones so that the retailer could better allocate its budget and achieve return on ad spend well below its threshold.
In collaboration with Inspirato, a private vacation club, Piston was able to better define where customers were within the yearlong customer conversion journey. To do that, Piston created custom dimensions within the Google Universal Analytics data layer and customized customer programmatic messaging using the full marketing mix of data points.
Piston Agency clients include AARP, Cars.com, and Intuit.
Other nominees include:
- Resolution Media
Criteria: Nominees in this category should represent agencies that leverage the multidimensional power of programmatic media to drive marketing precision, scale, contextual relevance, and efficiency for strategic audience- and people-based marketing programs.
Best Agency for Search
Search has long been a mainstay of digital marketing. But as the channel grows more sophisticated, it's increasingly becoming a place where brands can have one-to-one conversations with consumers. More often than not, iProspect is in the middle of those engagements.
The way iProspect sees it, a brand that produces valuable answers to each consumer's personal questions can create meaningful connections and build a loyal consumer base. But the challenge is cutting through the noise of irrelevant content. To do that, iProspect takes a listen-first approach before developing useful, valuable, and quality answers.
Working with Lids, a sports hat and apparel company, iProspect created a custom script to automate real-time bid increases for products related to March Madness winners. As a result, year-over-year traffic jumped by 343 percent, while revenue increased by 469 percent of the same period.
To help GMC exploit an untapped opportunity to capitalize on non-brand search terms, iProspect developed a lifestyle content program. As a result, GMC now ranks first for 70 percent of target non-brand terms.
iProspect clients include GM, Hilton, and Lenovo.
Other nominees include:
- 3Q Digital
- Internet Marketing Inc.
- Resolution Media
Criteria: Agencies that demonstrate a consistent high level of search marketing strategy development, execution, and innovation, focusing on both paid (SEM) and earned (SEO) applications that demonstrably improve a client's performance or brand marketing goals.
The Greater Good Award
These days, consumers are more likely to trust brands that back social causes. But joining those conversations can be tricky, which is why brands interested in cause marketing often reach out to Team Detroit.
Wanting to respond to Cadillac's much-derided "Poolside" campaign, Ford tapped Team Detroit to find a way into the conversation that reflected a more socially, economically, and environmentally conscious set of values. The result was "Upside: Anything is Possible," a campaign that featured Pashon Murray, the founder of Detroit Dirt, a sustainability consultancy and advocacy group.
Building on its relationship with Pashon Murray and the agency's commitment to local action, Team Detroit worked to inspire college students to show its creativity and offer ideas to make a positive environmental impact.
Team Detroit clients include The College for Creative Studies, Etch-A-Sketch, and United Way.
- Sparkhouse Forge54
- Team One
Criteria: Agencies that have demonstrated a consistent corporate commitment to supporting local, regional, or national causes and/or non-profit organizations of importance to the agency and its employees. This dedication might be represented through pro-bono work (creative, media, and marketing strategy and execution), mobilizing volunteer (internal and external) and monetary contributions, and other efforts.
Annie Nam, Senior Associate, Strategy, Mindshare North America
Annie Nam began her digital marketing career at Mindshare in 2013. In her two-plus years with the agency, Nam has worked across a diverse portfolio of accounts, including ARCO/ampm, Mitsui, and now Nordstrom. In her current role, Nam has led the strategic planning on 25 percent of Nordstrom's briefs, unearthing fresh consumer insights that have helped the agency's teams to focus on telling richer, more immersive, brand-building stories.
In addition to driving programs that deliver impressive results, Nam has also played a very active role in new business for Mindshare, run internal training sessions for the entire agency, championed partner sessions (including the Buzzfeed Content immersion session at Mindshare Los Angeles), and was the first LA employee to be honored in "Mindshare Unplugged," an award for rising star employees across North America.
Nam is a graduate of Pepperdine University.
Christy Williams, Nebo
Just a few years ago, Christy Williams interviewed for an admin position at Nebo. She got the job and impressed the agency team on day one. In no time, she found herself moving up to junior project manager, one of the most challenging roles at the agency because it requires someone who is equal parts account manager, strategist, and taskmaster. After only a year as a project manager, Williams began taking on some of the agency's largest accounts, achieving the lowest churn rate at Nebo.
Williams gives back to her community by serving on the board of the Atlanta AMA, volunteering through her church, and participating in the Susan G. Komen's Walk for the Cure.
Williams is a graduate of Florida State University.
Jay Stampfl, 3Q Digital
A five-year ad tech veteran, Jay Stampfl joined 3Q in 2013. He's currently 3Q's senior direct of client services. In that role, Stampfl manages a 27-person organization and oversees work across all digital disciplines, including paid search, paid social, and programmatic display. In total, Stampfl oversees $80 million in annual spend across his suite of clients, which include Minted, The Real Real, Beachbody, Travelzoo, and Hightail.
As an industry thought leader, Stampfl has spoken at Wharton Business School's San Francisco chapter, various Google webinars, and the SMX series. He has also authored several white papers and contributed to iMedia Connection's blog.
Stampfl is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley.
Criteria: Designed to recognize the extraordinary achievements of people early in their agency careers, the Rising Agency Star Awards honor those who are making a contribution to their agencies and clients that's well beyond what's expected at this stage of their career. Nominees should have spent fewer than five years in the agency business and a demonstrated track record of defining, recommending, selling through, and delivering transformative marketing programs that drive extraordinary results. Rising Stars should be natural leaders who help clients innovate, empower their agency teams to do great work, and are committed to being a vital member of their clients' teams. (There are multiple winners in this category, selected by iMedia's award advisory board.)