School Reports 2011: AKQA

Many of the headlines written about AKQA last year related to its potential sale by the majority owner, General Atlantic (with suitors including Dentsu). But the management team, to their credit, refused to allow the speculation to become a distraction and the agency went on to deliver another impressive performance, ending 2010 as Campaign's Digital Agency of the Year.

Recent AKQA work: Nike
Recent AKQA work: Nike

Score: 9

Agency fact file: AKQA
Type of agency Digital
Company ownership Independent
Key personnel Ajaz Ahmed chairman
  Tom Bedecarre chief executive
  Guy Wieynk European managing director
  Daniel Bonner European chief creative officer
  James Hilton European chief creative officer
Declared income £37.5m
Total accounts at year end 20
Accounts won 8 (biggest: n/s)
Accounts lost 0
Number of staff 350 (no change)

The year began with AKQA continuing to expand, launching its first office in Berlin to service its Nokia client. The agency then went on to align some notable work for clients including Nike with a successful new-business record.

Engaging Nike campaigns such as Football+, True City app and Grid demonstrated why AKQA has become a global player and attracted the attentions of potential buyers. The Nike Grid work, created alongside Wieden & Kennedy, saw London's streets become part of a live running game. The campaign sparked more than 3,000 runs in just 24 hours.

The agency also picked up two silver Lions and one bronze at Cannes for the Volkswagen Real Racing and True City app campaigns. In terms of new business, its largest wins included Acer and the Royal Navy.

AKQA's UK management team was hit by the departure of the managing director Nick Constantinou, who left to join McCann London, but the co-founders Ajaz Ahmed and James Hilton remain committed to the business and have ample management support.

The relationship between Ahmed's team and its owner still seems strong and there appears no necessity to sell unless the price is right.

How long AKQA can continue to be London's strongest independent digital agency is an open question. But, for now, there are few agencies that can compete with it for technology-led creative innovation.

Score last year: 8

How AKQA rates itself: 9

"The media landscape will continue to evolve and change but 2010 proved that daring clients and courageous agencies will always find interesting, artful and smart ways to tell their story. It was a year when we celebrated our respect for our clients' brands and their audiences through rewarding work. We also showcased our agency's founding values of innovation, service, quality and thought, and feel tremendously honoured to be named Campaign's Digital Agency of the Year."

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