Hat Trick

If it were up to us, we probably
wouldn’t have chosen Palmer Jarvis DDB as the gold winner this year.

Apart from the fact that it would have been much more exciting if an underdog broke through and stole the gold, it would have been nice to spread the glory around - with two prior consecutive wins under its belt, surely PJ has enjoyed the spotlight for long enough.

But it wasn't up to us. It was up to the 50 creative directors, client marketers and agency presidents who told us to invite Palmer Jarvis to compete this year, and it was up to the members of two separate judging panels, one comprised of creatives, the other of client marketers, who spent hours evaluating the five campaigns submitted by each of this year's six contenders. And they chose Palmer Jarvis.

Why? Not because the agency had the best campaign of the year. In fact, PJ didn't make the judges' top three campaign picks more often than the other contenders. PJ won because it submitted a body of work that was more consistently great than the others. As one of our judges remarked: "I'd wager there was a lot of debate in the agencies when it came time to choose the fifth campaign for their submission. And in most cases it weighed them down."

It's the first time in the history of the Agency of the Year competition, which has been running for 11 years now, that one agency has won three times in a row. The only other agency with three gold wins is Roche Macaulay & Partners, and those weren't all consecutive.

Ammirati Puris, the silver winner this year, is another agency we probably wouldn't have chosen to win. We might have felt that choosing an agency that’s leaking clients like a sieve as the second-best agency in Canada is just asking for trouble.

But again, it was the judges' choice, and it wasn't influenced by the events at Ammirati over the last few months. It was based solely on the quality of their submission. And with award-winning campaigns for Sunlight, Clarica, Fuji, Vaseline and Eatons, there's no doubt that Ammirati deserved recognition for one of its strongest years ever. Which, of course, makes Ammirati's current crisis very sad.

It also sends a warning to every agency in Canada as to just how difficult it is to keep a good shop together: in a way, the greater the talent you have, the greater the risk that it will take flight at a moment's notice.

The 2001 bronze winner, Taxi, is one we probably would have chosen. Agency president Paul Lavoie has known for years that if he wants to take Taxi to the next level, he has to maintain the agency's trademark playfulness while broadening out to gain a reputation as a serious, strategic shop. One that's just as comfortable with diarrhea humour (Toronto Worldwide Short Film Festival), as it is with long-term strategic brand-building (Telus).

They've succeeded, and the fact that they've placed in the top three agencies in Canada for the second year in a row proves it.

Rounding out this year's contenders are BBDO Worldwide, which netted honourable mention, J. Walter Thompson and Ogilvy & Mather. All deserve accolades for the excellent reputation they have built up in the Canadian marketing community, and for being chosen to compete in the shortest-short-list-ever year.

Before moving on to take a closer look at the winners on the pages that follow, we should take a moment to address why this year's shortlist was so, well, short. Yes, only six agencies were invited to participate this year, and yes, that is the fewest ever (although not by a lot: several past years have seen only eight or nine agencies invited).

The simple explanation is that, according to a survey of the most experienced and knowledgeable people in the Canadian marketing business, it was a bit of an off year. We asked 50 of you which agencies should be invited, and when the votes came in, we found that there were only six agencies in Canada which garnered more "yes, they should be invited" than "no, they shouldn't be invited" responses.

It's not easy to make contender. It's not easy to win. That's what, hopefully, makes it a competition worth winning. And here's to hoping that next year, when we ask who should be invited, we find people saying "yes" to a lot more agencies.

Duncan Hood
Special Reports Editor

| Agency of the Year |
| Gold: Palmer Jarvis DDB   Silver: Ammirati Puris   Bronze: Taxi |
| Honourable Mention: BBDO Canada |
| Finalists: J. Walter Thompson   Ogilvy & Mather |
| Best Media Operation |
| Gold: M2 Universal   Silver: Harrison, Young, Pesonen & Newell   Bronze: Starcom Worldwide |
| Best Media Director: Hugh Dow, M2 Universal |
| Judges: Creative   Strategic |
| How do you get to be Agency of the Year, Best Media Operation, and Best Media Director |

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