Independent Agency of the Year 2020: Joan

Gold: Joan

In 2016, Joan appeared on the stage as an upstart agency, named in honor of the many Joans in history who changed their worlds, from Joan of Arc to Joan Jett. As Joan enters its fifth year, it is enjoying phenomenal growth while still maintaining its outsider attitude. 

Joan describes its mission as making “legendary brands modern and modern brands legendary.” Among the legendary brands that have turned to Joan are Brawny, Facebook and The Economist. With Brawny, the effort to give it modern relevance included the Giants Take Action platform, celebrating grassroots heroes and recognizing that a diversity of people can be giants. 

The modern brands that Joan counts as clients include Virgin Hotels, Potential Energy and Zuul. This last year was a particularly difficult one for the hospitality industry, but Joan successfully helped Virgin Hotels pivot to local audiences by encouraging staycations. Residents of Nashville were enticed to stay at the new Virgin hotel there with promise that they would get to experience it “before the tourists do.” Joan’s Save Florida Man campaign raised awareness of Potential Energy and its goals, and now they will follow with Science Moms, which is designed to motivate mothers to become involved in fighting for action regarding climate change. 

Joan’s strategies for maintaining engagement and enthusiasm throughout COVID-19 included Zoom costume contests and karaoke. Most importantly, the agency achieved its goal of not laying off any employees while also bringing 11 new clients onboard. 

Silver: Day One

In a year of unprecedented challenges, Day One relied on good storytelling. Everything that Day One does is built around how to “shape, share and fuel” clients’ stories. That process helped the agency go big and bold to overcome obstacles created by the pandemic and lockdowns. 

For the annual birthday party for the Nike Air Max, Day One released a DIY zine toolkit in 26 languages, allowing fans to create their own Nike-inspired zines. To quickly promote Chipotle’s home delivery options, Day One tapped into the star power of Luke Bryan, Kaskade, Rob Gronkowski and Melissa Urban for a series of lunchtime events that helped increase digital sales by 261%. Finally, American Express’ Shop Small campaign took on a new urgency as independent retailers, including Black-owned businesses, struggled during the pandemic. Day One’s efforts resulted in more than 300 media stories on the event.

Bronze: Lightning Orchard

Before DE&I became the center of discussion in 2020, Lightning Orchard was born in 2019 with diversity at the center of its mission. The agency vowed that all female employees would be paid the same as their male counterparts, and it would actively grow the pool of BIPOC candidates in advertising. While pursuing its social mission, Lightning Orchard has also produced excellent work including Super Bowl ads for Oikos Triple Zero and Dashlane. The small agency produced four more campaigns during COVID-19, including one for Silk Soy with Michael Phelps. The firm saw year-over-year growth of 132%, adding up to an impressive debut.

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