School Reports 2016: AKQA


Little cracks have accumulated at AKQA, and the agency no longer feels like the untouchable force of four years ago.

Take the loss of the Nike European football digital account to R/GA London and Dare. It’s not a critical financial hit but it’s an erosion of the relationship between AKQA and its defining client, and it will be felt all the way up to the WPP chief executive, Sir Martin Sorrell. Rumours about Nike feeling that AKQA had become complacent only rubbed salt into the wound.

Similarly, the agency was always known for stability in its management but, in 2015, there were a number of long-standing senior-level departures. In February, Phil Haworth, the group creative director, joined R/GA London in the same role. Nick Turner, an executive creative director, moved to Razorfish, having joined AKQA in 1998. Another executive creative director, Jason McCann, who had been at the agency since 2011, departed at the end of the year.

But AKQA still had much to be pleased with. It added Volvo, Activision, Rolls-Royce, Starbucks and Virgin Holidays, among others, to its list of clients.

There was good news on the awards front too. AKQA was the most-awarded UK digital agency at Cannes, going home with four golds for Nike – "House of Mamba" for Nike Rise and "the last shot" for the Jordan brand.

And AKQA did some neat work for Tidal, the music-streaming site, creating a music video that stops playing when the viewer looks away.

Overall, not bad at all. But as AKQA enters 2016 with Wayne Deakin joining as an executive creative director, it will want to regain that air of invincibility that was missing in 2015.

How the agency rates itself: 8

"In 2015, AKQA earned four gold Lions, four D&AD awards, "Best in Book" from the Creative Review Annual and European Agency of the Year at the Mixx Europe Awards. It was also named Econsultancy’s most influential agency for the third year running. New client wins allowed us to open in Gothenburg, Sweden, and H-ART became part of the AKQA network, taking our team, skills and expertise to Italy."

Type of agency Digital and innovation
Company ownership WPP
Declared income n/s*
Total accounts at year end 37
Accounts won 10 (biggest: Volvo)
Accounts lost 2 (biggest: Vodafone)
Number of staff 523 (no change)
Key personnel Ajaz Ahmed, chief executive
Sam Kelly, managing director
Ron Peterson, general manager
Duan Evans, international executive creative director
Ben Jones, chief technology officer

Score key: 9 Outstanding  8 Excellent  7 Good  6 Satisfactory  5 Adequate  4 Below average  3 Poor  2 A year to forget  1 Survival in question

Footnote: *indicates where agencies claim the corporate governance constraints of the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation.

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