Peer Review – the best of 2005

Again this year we polled pundits across the country about the goings-on of the past year. Frankly, we wanted the water cooler talk of 2005: which agency is most improved, which is the best network, which has the most impressive wins and at which, besides your own (of course), would you most like to work. Here, our peer review panelists (above) tell all.

Again this year we polled pundits across the country about the goings-on of the past year. Frankly, we wanted the water cooler talk of 2005: which agency is most improved, which is the best network, which has the most impressive wins and at which, besides your own (of course), would you most like to work. Here, our peer review panelists (above) tell all.

Which agency has improved the most creatively?

No coincidence that the shops that landed on this list also secured spots in our Agency of the Year competition shortlist. Lowe Roche was certainly fast and furious over the year, especially with its big, brawny launch for Virgin Mobile. On the other hand, BBDO quietly made up some ground, doing solid work across the board. And Rethink, well, it’s not really that the shop improved – it just keeps getting better.

‘It’s not like BBDO has never done good work, they obviously do a lot of it, but in the last year in particular it seemed that they were just present – always – with lots of campaigns. It wasn’t just one. You expect that from some other agencies, but typically these guys aren’t as top of mind to me in that sense and last year they seemed to be.’

Shawn King, CD, Extreme Group, Dartmouth, N.S

‘Rethink has been doing consistently great work since day one. But this year in particular, on a variety of campaigns, they’ve really made a big mark on the international scene. I’ve read a lot about them in all the different trade press around the word. They’re definitely firing on all cylinders at this moment in time.’

Zak Mroueh, ECD, Taxi, Toronto

‘In the last year Lowe Roche has made a good little comeback in the quality of their work. That’s based on work I’ve seen on Virgin, Stella Artois – and Mercedes. Despite the fact that they’ve parted company, they had done some nice work. The Raymond TV ad was wonderful. They’ve gone from being off the radar for a couple of years to showing really positive strides in the right direction.’

Jack Neary, president/COO, BBDO, Toronto

Which agency has had the most impressive wins?

Not a whole lot were contested, but those that were were big time. Publicis all but had this title nailed with its win of the mammoth Rogers account in June. That was until October, when Taxi came out of nowhere to walk away with the coveted Canadian Tire account. And oh yeah, after much speculation, Bell left Grip to go back to its former partner, Cossette.

‘It was the most hotly contested pitch from my perspective in the hinterland. [Rogers] has a reputation as an extremely demanding client, the pitch would have been demanding [as well] and there seemed to be a lot of good shops throwing everything at it. It’s got to be one of the landmark wins of the year.’

Steve Williams, CD, Venture Communications, Calgary

‘At the time [Rogers] was the most contested pitch. It was your classic, full-scale pitch process and the fact that Publicis emerged tells you everything you need to know.’

Brian Howlett, CD, AMW, Toronto

‘I think the Taxi win is huge. Canadian Tire has been loath [to do decent work] for a good decade. Not since Bill Irish’s ‘A Bike Story,’ which inspired a lot of us to get into the advertising world, have they done anything great and if there’s one place that can do it, it might be Taxi.’

Craig Redmond, VP, Grey Northwest, Vancouver

Which is the best agency network?

DDB was the hand’s down favourite. Why? According to peers, it is a solid all-around network that does just about everything right.

‘What counts the most to me is the work itself. I think that [DDB's] three offices, including Downtown Partners, all do very high-calibre work consistently. I don’t know what their secret is…. The other agency networks all have their very good moments but DDB seems to have more of them.’

Nancy Vonk, CD, Ogilvy & Mather, Toronto

‘The thing about DDB is they’ve got great depth in pretty much every one of their departments. They’re led by a super strong creative department, but their planning group is extremely solid. They’ve got divisions like Kidthink, Tribal, karacters. You don’t really see any soft spots. As it relates to the network as a whole, they have a very strong culture internationally and they really do live up to the promise of being able to draw in resources when necessary. [DDB] is like a sports team…there are no weak lines and when you go into battle with them you know you’re going to be facing a really solid opponent.’

David Martin, president, Hyphen, Vancouver

Besides your own, which agency would you most like to work for?

No big surprise here. The two arguably hottest agencies in the country – and our number one and two of the year – are also the two faves.

‘I think the quality of Taxi’s work is excellent across the board. Obviously they know what it takes to do very good work. It’s recognized not just in Canada but also globally, so you know it’s not a fluke. They’re playing in a bigger space now. I understand they’re at about 150 people so that makes them one of the bigger agencies in Canada. [They're] not a boutique agency, but their behaviour in terms of the work they do is to try to maintain that feel. It’s certainly not luck; it’s hard work.’

Tony Miller, VP/CD, Sharpe Blackmore EURO RSCG, Toronto

‘Rethink excites me. They’re very strong strategically and then they come out with a body of work which isn’t just a one-shot wonder. They’re thinking freshly – it breaks through the clutter. [The work is] strategically sound with humour, but the entertainment is not overwhelming the message. They [also] seem to have a very strong unit of people there. They’ve managed to build a very strong brand in a very short period of time. They didn’t debilitate the agency they worked at [DDB]; they went off and developed a market. Now, Rethink is another very strong entity out of Vancouver – that’s made it not just a one-horse town.’

Glen Hunt, creative catalyst, Dentsu, Toronto

Other picks:

Leo Burnett’s work for Gain detergent, Wrigley’s Excel Gum and Minute Maid Five Alive are helping to give the Toronto-based shop an edgier creative reputation. Smaller agency Bensimon*Byrne, responsible for work like stupid.ca, was also highlighted for making strides creatively, as was Saatchi & Saatchi, largely due to its work for Toyota. Further east, both Montreal’s Diesel and Nova’s Scotia’s Extreme Group got nods as the agencies showing the most improvement creatively over the past 12 months.