The Directory BIG WON rankings 2016

Wednesday January 11th 2017.

This morning, the Directory Big Won rankings were released.

For all the gory details, please check out The Drum ( or go to

The top-line results are:

Top networks

1. BBDO 3,405pts 1 1 2 1
2. Ogilvy 2,274 4 2 1 2
3. Leo Burnett 1,951 2 4 4 3=
4. Y&R 1,721 5 5 5 5
5. McCann 1,584 7 8 6 12
6. JWT 1,485 10 9 9 7
7. DDB 1,346 3 3 3 3=
8. TBWA 986 9 6 8 6
9. Grey 904 6 11 - 13
10. Publicis 761 11 7 7 9

Top agencies

Points 2015 2014 2013 2012 rank
1.Colenso BBDO Auckland 672 6 13= 4 1
2. Y&R Auckland 463 543 481    
3. Dentsu Tokyo 398 8 1 11= 8
4. LOLA MullenLowe Madrid 315 43 48 - 708
5. AlmapBBDO Sao Paulo 315 19 4 3 11
6. BBDO New York 311 1 5 11 2
7. Forsman + Bodenfors 292 21 8 21 10
8. Clemenger BBDO M'lbourne 289 378 23 18 64
9. AMVBBDO London 253 11 11 29 4
10. Impact BBDO Dubai 249 52 6 168 185

Top campaigns

1. McWhopper McDonald's NZ Y&R Auckland/David Miami 321
2. Brewtroleum DB Breweries NZ Colenso BBDO Auckland 280
3. Manboobs MACMA Argentina David Buenos Aires 215
4. Van Gogh BnB Art Institute of Chicago Leo Burnett Chicago 158
5. Justino Spanish Lottery Leo Burnett Madrid 154
6. Survival Billboard Microsoft UK McCann London 144
7. #Optoutside REI USA Venables Bell San Francisco 134
8= Call Sweden Swedish Tourism INGO Stockholm 133
8= Next Rembrandt ING Netherlands JWT Amsterdam 133
10. Donate the Bars Atados Brazil JWT Brazil 126
11. Field Trip to Mars Lockheed Martin McCann New York 122
12= Emotional Trailer Melbourne Film Festival McCann Melbourne 109
12= #sharetheload P&G India BBDO India 109
14. Check It Before It's Removed Pink Ribbon Germany DDB Germany 105
15. Reword Headspace Australia Leo Burnett Melbourne 100
16. Football Memories Libero Spain LOLA MullenLowe Madrid 94
17. Edible 6-pack ring Saltwater Brewery We Believers New York 91
18. Touchable Ink Samsung Thailand JWT Bangkok 90
19. #notcomingsoon Remy Martin Fred & Farid New York 85
20= Printed by Somerset Somerset Graphics Leo Burnett Toronto 83
20= Spare the Act Curry's AMVBBDO London 83

So, what do the 2016 rankings reveal about the state of our industry?

These are my first thoughts.

For a more considered view, subscribe to Directory at, and get the full report in Issue 42, out on March 6th.

BBDOh my goodness

In 2016, BBDO have no fewer than six agencies in the world's Top 10.

The agency's mantra is 'the work, the work, the work' and it shows. In the 13 years since The Big Won rankings were first published, BBDO has topped the rankings (apart from one blip in 2013 when Ogilvy & Mather muscled in.)

The work has been consistently innovative with BBDO New York in particular embracing Digital.

And that's what is most noticeable about the 2016 rankings.

Where are the hot, digitally savvy agencies that looked set to take over the world? Crispin Porter in Boulder, R/GA in New York, Shackleton in Madrid, AKQA in London, serviceplan in Munich?

Nowhere to be seen.

Meanwhile, it is the big network agencies that are doing the most interesting work. And the big, old monoliths are beginning to look a lot more sprightly as a result of it - agencies like Grey New York (#Daddo for Pantene, Superbowl Babies Chour for the NFL) and McCann New York (Field Trip to Mars for Lockheed Martin, Girls Can't Code for Girls Who Code USA) producing campaigns any independent agency would be proud of.

The same goes for Grey and McCann in London, both rejuvenated and creating exciting work for Tate Gallery (Grey) and X-Box (McCann).

Talking of the independent agencies, it has been a patchy year.

Eleven independents have made it into the Top 100. (At No.7, Forsman+Bodenfors had another good year but Droga5 New York is down to 17 from 7 in 2015. Venables Bell is at 41, and Wieden+Kennedy Portland, down 13 places, are at 48.)

In times of uncertainty, you would expect them to do rather better than the traditional agencies with their shareholders and reluctance to fire intransigent clients.

In times of uncertainty, it seems marketers are trusting their traditional strategic partners to help them make the right decisions about how and where they spend their budgets.

And in return for that trust, the big agencies are becoming genuinely agnostic in their creative solutions to problems. Where not so long ago, the default of an ad agency would be to make a TV ad, now it is to make…a new product. A biofuel, for instance. Or, also from Colenso BBDO, a skin cream for women to rub into their breasts to help them detect early warning signs of cancer.

The All Golds

And, talking of Colenso BBDO, this is not the first time the agency has been #1 in the world. They were at the top of the tree back in 2012.

And here's a thing.

They're also the top agency over the last five years, which is a testimony to their consistency as well as their inventiveness.

New Zealand agencies really do seem to rule the roost in 2016. If the All Blacks dominate world rugby, then Kiwi creatives are doing the same in advertising.

The most highly-awarded campaign in the world across all media was from Y&R Auckland, the "McWhopper" campaign for Burger King. It was also the No.1 Direct campaign.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the rankings, FCB Auckland is the No.1 agency for print.

DDB Auckland, ranking only No.3 in New Zealand, had enough points to rank No.1 in Belgium, Canada, France, India and even Germany.

What do they have in the water there?

It isn't as if this year's performance has been a flash in the pan. Kiwi agencies are consistently knocking it out of the park.

An agency may often do well in the rankings thanks to a single campaign, which wins awards at most of the big shows.

Colenso BBDO, however, won awards for 14 different clients (DB Breweries, Mars Petcare, Bank of New Zealand, Volkswagen, George Weston Foods, Auckland Writer's Festival, New Zealand Book Council, Fonterra Brands, SkyCity, Frucor Beverages, Michael Hill International, Mountain Dew, Burger King.)

"McWhopper" won awards in Print, Outdoor, Direct, Promo, Media, Digital, Alternative & Innovative, Integrated, PR and Branded Content. But as well as propelling Y&R Auckland to the top of the rankings, it also won elsewhere for Y&R Media, Y&R Digital and for David, Miami.

Quite how Y&R collaborated with Florida-based David I'm not at all sure.

Nipping hard on New Zealand's heels as the most creative country is Lebanon, with yet another good year for Leo Burnett Beirut. This year they have had competition from JWT Beirut, whose "The Good Note" for Bou Khalil Supermarkets picked up awards at most international shows.

Better together

Collaboration is a major theme of 2016 and one which will get even more significant in 2017 . Recent research quoted by Lars Bastholm at the IAB ( provides evidence that any piece of work involving three or more agencies has a 42% greater chance of winning an award than work created by a single agency alone.

"Van Gogh's Bedroom" for the Art Institute of Chicago is credited to Leo Burnett Chicago, Starcom Mediavest Chicago and Ravenswood Studios, who made the actual set. And "The Next Rembrandt" is credited to three other agencies besides JWT Amsterdam.

Five agencies are credited with helping the simple video "Manboobs" for MACMA.

As agencies set about creating experiences rather than creating messages, it stands to reason they will need to involve skillsets they don't have themselves.

Building the bus for "The Field Trip to Mars", for instance. Four agencies were credited in the Cannes submission though one suspects more must have been involved in the construction.

McCann London's "Survival Billboard" lists seven collaborating agencies.

"#LoveAtFirstTaste" by MullenLowe London for Knorr, likely to win plenty in 2017, is said to have nine.

Traditional agencies are not short of large egos. The irony is that their creative stars are going to have to get used to putting their egos aside if they want to have their names attached to award-winning work.

The long and the short

In autumn 2016, Peter Field and Les Binet followed up their 2013 book "The Long And The Short Of It" with research based on IPA Effectiveness Awards winners. Their findings were that award-winning work continues to perform better in terms of ROI than unawarded campaigns. However, with 47% of budgets now being spent on achieving short-term results rather than long-term brand fame, they say there has been a dilution of effectiveness.

Award-winning work is now (just) six times more successful.

Hearteningly, and bucking the trend, "Justino" from Leo Burnett Madrid for the Spanish National Lottery, was a massive brand-building campaign and the most highly ranked example of 'traditional' advertising at No.5.

The next most highly ranked TV-based idea is "Spare the Act" for Dixons/Carphone Warehouse from AMVBBDO in at No.21.

No print or outdoor in the top 20 at all.

Instead, advertising ideas that don't look like advertising ideas at all.

Like creating a bedroom in an art gallery. Or creating an image by digitally mashing up a whole lot of Rembrandts. Or "The Edible Sixpack Ring" for Saltwater Breweries by We Are Believers New York, a demonstration of the company's push for sustainability rather than a message.

Innovation is the name of the game these days.

But where digital agencies think of innovation as a new product or service, ad agencies ask, 'what can we do first?'

So we get film-goers experiencing the entire movie in a couple of minutes.

A poster with live human beings as the pawns that gamers can play with.

A novel use for the black bars either side of any video shot on a mobile.

A phone number that can be answered by thousands of people.

Touchable ink.

The first film shot, edited and designed to remain unseen for a century.

How much of this is scam is hard to say. Fred & Farid remarked that good creative people make great work but exceptional creatives write the award submission videos.

Certainly, most agencies brag about the number of media impressions their campaigns achieve. It's a way of proving their campaigns have reach. And Byron Sharp's insistence in "How Brands Grow" that reach is still fundamental to success has not been lost on clients.

So, Y&R tell us that "McWhopper" notched up 8.9 billion media impressions.

"Manboobs" picked up a rather less spectacular 193 million impressions.

Only 2,500 people actually experienced the "Field Trip to Mars" but the bus managed to make 120 million impressions.

Unusually, Colenso BBDO Auckland talked about actual sales. Up 10% at a higher price point.

Wow! Advertising designed to sell. As opposed to branded content, designed to influence behaviours such as BBDO India's attempt to get Indian guys to be just a little more helpful around the home with "#Sharetheload" for P&G.

I can confidently predict that branded content will continue to grow in importance in 2017 even if no-one really knows what it is. Actually, because no-one really knows what it is.

Put it this way, every single campaign in the Top 20 rankings either did or could have won awards in the category.

Less appealing

A welcome difference to last year's rankings, where charity and pro-bono campaigns skewed the results, is the fact there are only two campaigns in the top 20 created for NGOs, "Donate the Bars" from JWT Brazil for Atados and "Touchable Ink" from JWT Bangkok for Samsung Thailand.

Call me a cynic, but raising awareness is a lot easier than actually raising money.

That said, "The Ice-Bucket Challenge", which won a Grand Prix for Good in 2015, could have made a reappearance in the 2016 rankings for effectiveness. It is reported as having raised $114 million.

The best advertising for the advertising business itself is work that works.

There are always a couple of faintly spurious campaigns in the rankings, work designed for the agency's shop window rather than to meet a client's commercial needs, but the 2016 list looks a lot less flakey than some in the past.

All in all, the 2016 rankings suggest an astonishing breadth of advertising solutions with more agencies demonstrating broader competencies across more media sets.

The notion of 'above the line' and 'below the line' agencies is risible nowadays, given that every idea any agency creates needs to be articulated in countless ways across all media.

As technology continues to force change upon us all, there can only be more seismic shifts ahead as Artificial Intelligence, VR and AR influence how marketers believe they can reach their target audiences.

What 2016 suggests is that there is an incredibly exciting 2017 ahead of us. And, surprisingly, it isn't the new digital hot-shops or the independents who are leading the charge into the future.

BBDO New York, McCann New York, Leo Burnett Chicago, Ogilvy & Mather London, Grey London, these big agencies are showing themselves to be more experimental - more agile - than the johnny-come-latelies.

Too big to fail? Or big enough to accommodate adventure?

Either way, predictions that the traditional creative agency is on its last legs seem pretty wide of the truth.

For your agency's or a campaign's or own personal ranking, email [email protected].

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The Directory Big Won rankings are edited by Patrick Collister.

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