AnalogFolk had its most successful year in 2019, which was no mean feat, given how many plates it managed to keep spinning in order to evolve, innovate and broaden its offering. It deserves this year’s accolade for showing boldness by launching new initiatives and bringing in key talent, while sustaining a strong new-business record and doubling its profits, compared with 2018.
The independent agency scored consistently highly among all our judges this year for this category, and there were plaudits for its new-business performance, financial-performance indicators, work case studies and people/leadership development.
As one judge summed it up: "A strong set of blue-chip wins and fast growth meant profits doubled. Great creative case studies with good impact data. Good examples of people and leadership development with their Academy and their commitment to various aspects of diversity."
On the work front, AnalogFolk produced some meaty digital transformation projects for key clients, such as Diageo, Dyson and HSBC. For Nando’s, AnalogFolk built the restaurant brand’s first ecommerce platform using cutting-edge tech to handle spikes in customer demand. It also tripled the size of its BT account by adding digital innovation to its existing customer engagement brief.
But what was particularly impressive about AnalogFolk’s output this year was the breadth and diversity of the work on offer. As another judge enthused: "AnalogFolk are really going for it. Big clients, brave work, bold level of investment to shape the future. Such a broad spectrum of executions, too."
For Nike, it delivered two platform firsts: it brought the brand to TikTok for the first time for the "Stop at nothing" campaign in Italy, which encouraged young women to get moving by watching and repeating dance routines. The campaign delivered more than 100 million views and 46,000-plus user-generated routines posted in response, and generated a plethora of free media in TV, newspapers, and online.
After winning EE as a client in January, AnalogFolk’s nascent audio content division launched a branded podcast series hosted by Rick Edwards to celebrate people such as Professor Green, who have managed to prove the naysayers wrong. As a sign of the quality of the content, the podcasts more than quadrupled the campaign’s download target and ranked among the top three technology podcasts in the Apple show rankings.
The agency also demonstrated it could deliver in the increasingly important ecommerce space within social media – an arena where many digital agencies’ futures could be won or lost this decade – as shown with AnalogFolk’s work for Tommy Hilfiger in 2019 (pictured, top). The luxury clothing brand wanted to set its Tommy Jeans products apart online, so the agency strove for "realness" as it sought to engage style-conscious Instagrammers by mirroring their digital behaviours and approaches through a new channel, @TommyJeans. The channel more than doubled its follower target and quickly became the brand’s highest-performance ecommerce channel, having exploded from zero to 125,000 Instagram followers.
All the while, AnalogFolk managed to double its investment in research and development, which brought in significant revenue. It launched an agency-wide manifesto, "Stay restless", to drive change, and expanded its partnership with Microsoft to add skills for staff in the realm of AI.
It also made strong appointments following the departure of London managing director Ete Davies, (who secured a bigger job at Engine). Co-founder and global chief executive Bill Brock stepped in to take the UK reins himself before finding permanent replacements for both Davies and himself as London and global leaders, respectively. Enter Guy Wieynk, the well-known agency boss, who started a consultancy after his stint as Publicis Worldwide EMEA chief executive, whom Brock anointed as his global chief executive successor. Meanwhile, Wieynk’s fellow AKQA alumna Anna-Louise Gladwell took Davies’ place as London managing director.
Gravity Road has evolved from a straightforward content studio into a leading digital innovation agency, sitting in an interesting place within new owner You & Mr Jones. Among its major strategic moves was the launch of an office in New York, led by co-founder Mark Boyd.
Its case studies were creative and innovative (last year it delivered memorable campaigns for Sainsbury’s, Three and Uber, among others). As one judge said: "Gravity Road has an interesting positioning as a creative studio in a bridge position between brand agencies and martech organisations. It is on a fast expansion programme with their US growth being of note."
R/GA had a very good year but just missed out on nabbing a third successive accolade in this category. It won 12 new clients and lured Google’s Andre Le Masurier to the UK to take over the creative officer role vacated by London agency co-founder James Temple. A master of reinventing itself as an agency, R/GA set out to create a "more human future" in 2019 and its work highlights exhibited that theme, such as the "Malaria must die" David Beckham deepfake campaign, or its "Nike move" content that promoted active play for kids. "Love the human approach and the strong sense of purpose running through the entry. RGA feels truly innovative and creative as well as being highly sensitised to some of the risks and the threats around tech," one judge commented.
Unit9 is fundamentally a production company, and might not seem a usual contender for Campaign’s Digital Innovation Agency of the Year, but its entry was very well received and stood out in a crowded field, not least because of a strong set of financials and an impressive array of work for global clients. As one judge remarked: "[Unit9] has a strong record on digital tool and product development… undoubtedly a key force in digital innovation."
Unit9 helped deliver Samsung’s major brand campaign for 2019 – "SpaceSelfie" – in which people could beam their photos into space and have their picture taken remotely on a satellite. It also built a documentary app about the Apollo 11 mission for the John F Kennedy Presidential Library and delivered Huawei’s "Sound of light" AI-powered orchestral event.