|Type||Subsidiary of WPP plc|
|Founded||San Francisco, USA and London, England (March 2001)|
|Key people||Ajaz Ahmed, CEO and Founder
Tom Bedecarré, Chairman
James Hilton, CCO and Co-Founder
Lester Feintuck, CFO
Media, search and analytics
Content creation and distribution
Social media and community development
|Revenue||US$ 250 million (2012)|
AKQA is an advertising agency that specializes in creating digital services and products. AKQA has offices in London, San Francisco, New York, Paris, Washington, D.C., Amsterdam, Berlin, Shanghai, Tokyo, Atlanta and Portland, with 1,200 full-time employees.
The most recent insights into the philosophy of the agency are contained in Velocity: The Seven New Laws For A World Gone Digital, published in May 2012. It was co-authored by AKQA founder and CEO Ajaz Ahmed, and Nike VP Digital Sport, Stefan Olander. During an interview with Adweek, Ahmed described the themes of Velocity: "Our belief is that audiences want to have more engagement and more of an experience, rather than be bombarded with endless messages." Soon after launch, Velocity became the best-selling management philosophy book in the UK, US and Germany.
Creating products and services for brands that serve rather than interrupt is an idea Ahmed also develops in an article written for the Guardian newspaper: "Interface is the brand." Here he proposes that marketers start "storytelling through software," and concludes: "If the Mad Men era is dead, then long live the new era of ‘The Long Tale’, where the enduring quality of your story matters more than the relentlessness of your promotional spend." This idea is further expanded in another Guardian piece: "Radically simple design always wins" where Ahmed asserts that brands need to be user-centric in their approach to developing products and services.
The book The On-Demand Brand quotes AKQA’s Chairman, Tom Bedecarré: "There are a lot of advertising people who want to hang onto the past, want to hang onto 30-second television commercials and full-color magazine ads. [But] you [now need to] have software engineers and technology people as part of the creative team if you want to connect with what people are doing."
AKQA was founded in 1995 in London by Ajaz Ahmed and James Hilton, and according to privco.com as AKQA Holdings, Inc in 2001 when Francisco Partners and Accenture invested $70 million into AKQA with San Francisco becoming its headquarters. On its website, Francisco Partners reported selling AKQA to General Atlantic in 2006 (although some news reports listed this as 2007), terms not disclosed but the transaction was brokered by Morgan Stanley. In June 2012 WPP acquired AKQA, at the time it was reported that General Atlantic owned 80% and management 20%, although other published reports say General Atlantic "and other shareholders" owned 80%.
- AKQA Inc is founded with four offices in the UK, US and Asia. Nike Run London launches: 10,000 runners take part in a new branded sports format that sets the bar for future campaigns.
- The second year of Run London sells out over 20,000 places in a few hours using an e-commerce platform designed by AKQA.
- In collaboration with Visa USA and MSN, AKQA creates ideashappen.com – asking people to submit entrepreneurial and community-based ideas. During its first month, the campaign attracts one million visitors. The agency launches Nike Presto online with a collective of post-graffiti artists, where users interact with art, sound and hidden animation.
- The New York office opens to increase access to East Coast clients and talent. AKQA publishes AKQA Ideas: Volume 1, showcasing the agency’s work within 100 pages. The book sells out on Amazon, with proceeds for the sale donated to the NSPCC and Prince’s Trust charities.
- AKQA Interface Design Practice helps Microsoft create the new user experience for the Xbox 360 gaming console.
- AKQA Mobile launches as a specialist division. In the same year, AKQA creates Future Lions in collaboration with the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival. This annual competition will challenge students to "advertise a product from a global brand in a way that couldn’t be conceived five years ago."
- AKQA opens new offices in Amsterdam and Shanghai. The agency acquires SearchRev and turns it into a dedicated search engine marketing practice. Revenue grows by 45%. Fiat eco:Drive launches at the Paris Motor Show: an in-car app that helps drivers reduce their CO2 emissions and fuel consumption.
- AKQA is named on the AdAge Digital A-List. Work highlighted includes the Coca-Cola "Happiness Factory" digital experience, the Halo "Believe" launch campaign, McDonald’s alternative reality game "The Lost Ring" and products such as the Nike Route Finder. AKQA’s Christmas card – starring a chorus of harmonic microwaves – is a notable viral success and features on more than 400 blogs.
- AKQA is named in the AdAge Book of Tens as one of the outstanding agencies of the decade, and wins the Cannes Lions Cyber Grand Prix for Fiat eco:Drive. Other notable work includes the alternate reality game for Warner Bros 221b, the spoof film Alpine Legend for Xbox, and the campaign "Born to Run" for Save the Children.
- AKQA creates key branded iPhone apps launching that year: Gap Style Mixer, Nike True City, Nigella Quick Collection, and VW Real Racing GTI. The agency opens a third European office in Berlin.
- Nike Training Club, the world's most downloaded training app, wins awards worldwide. Heineken Star Player, the innovative dual screening game, launches and sweeps the board of global awards. AKQA is cited "most awarded digital agency" by the Gunn Report, and receives international recognition on both sides of the Atlantic when named Agency of the Year by Campaign and Adweek.
- In January AKQA opens a fourth European office in Paris, with Nike as founding client.Velocity is published, co-authored by AKQA founder and CEO Ajaz Ahmed, and Nike VP Digital Sport Stefan Olander, with a foreword by Sir Richard Branson. In June, AKQA joins WPP plc as an independent subsidiary within the world’s largest communications group.
Heineken Star Player
Heineken Star Player is a live, dual-screen football game that lets fans watch UEFA Champions League (UCL) matches on television while playing in real time on a computer, iPhone or iPod Touch. To score points, players must anticipate events unfolding live on the pitch, and decide how the action will play out during the next few seconds. Players compete and share scores with their friends via Facebook, and with other players around the world in the "Interactive Champions League". Heineken Star Player launches on April 27, 2012.
Nike Training Club
Nike Training Club (NTC) launched in January 2011. The app has over 60 workouts that can be set to the user's own music. Each includes video demos and audio instructions, countdowns and motivational commentary. With NTC, the user earns exclusive rewards (such as unlocking star athlete and celebrity workouts) whenever they complete a workout. NTC was rated number one app in the iTunes Healthcare and Fitness category, and has won both European and global awards. At the end of 2011, the Wall Street Journal rated NTC as one of the best apps of that year.
MTV Under The Thumb
Under The Thumb is an app for the mobile generation, redefining how MTV is seen and shared by the digital teenagers of Europe. When out and about, the best MTV shows – both past and present – can be streamed onto mobile devices on demand. When at home, the app becomes a remote control to be paired with a PC, laptop or connected TV for an immersive dual-screen experience. The app syncs viewing with friends who can watch shows and chat together in real time, no matter where they are. MTV Under The Thumb launched on February 28, 2012 in Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Poland and the Netherlands.
Owners of the Fiat 500 (or other new Fiat models), can use eco:Drive to collect their real-world driving data on a USB stick plugged into the dashboard. When drivers connect the USB to their computer, eco:Drive analyses drivers gear changes, acceleration and braking habits and calculates their eco:Index – a scoring of their carbon footprint. eco:Drive offers advice on how to improve driving, quantifies how good this will be for the environment, and how much money can be saved during a year, by increasing drivers' fuel efficiency.
Volkswagen 2010 GTI car launch
Based on an engine by Melbourne developer Firemint, AKQA created the free "Real Racing GTI" games app, released on October 15, 2009. It became the number one app in 36 countries, with over 4.3 million downloads. Using the GPS function, players could find their nearest Volkswagen, and within days of the release, dealers were reporting sales directly linked to the game.
Awards and recognition
In 2011, AKQA was named Digital Agency of the Year by Adweek and Campaign magazines. Combining the results of all the significant advertising industry awards, the Gunn Report rated AKQA the top digitally-led agency of 2011. New Media Age also names AKQA the "most respected agency" as voted by industry peers.
AKQA garners more than 100 industry awards, including at least one agency of the year award every year. In 2010, AKQA took home Agency of the Year for the second year running at the Revolution Awards, and Agency of the Year awards from New Media Age and the Interactive Advertising Bureau. In 2009, the agency wins five separate Agency of the Year awards, a feat unprecedented in the communications industry.
AKQA has previously been named Revolution’s Agency of the Decade (1997 to 2007). In 2006 Creativity magazine gives AKQA its inaugural Interactive Agency of the Year award, recognizing the agency's "global culture, creative hires and technological muscle." Creativity editor Teressa Iezzi says: "We thought AKQA embodied the spirit of the big-idea-first approach."
- "Living in a digital world". Business Sense. May 21, 2012. Retrieved May 23, 2012.
- "Velocity: The Seven New Laws for a World Gone Digital". Amazon.
- "Fast Chat: Ajaz Ahmed's New Book, AKQA chairman discusses 'Velocity,' co-written with Nike digital chief". Adweek. Retrieved 1 May 2012.
- Ahmed, Ajaz (11 June 2012). "Interface is the brand, so let the glory days of story begin". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 11 June 2012.
- Ahmed, Ajaz (13 August 2012). "Radically simple designs always win". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
- "AKQA CEO Bedecarre on making a break with advertising's past". 2 April 2010. Retrieved 12 April 2010.
- "AKQA Helps Visa Reach Dreamers". Adweek. Retrieved 25 April 2003.
- "AKQA Launches Nike Web Presence for Asia Pacific Market". Adweek. Retrieved 21 March 2003.
- "AKQA to open New York office: Lars Bastholm named executive creative director to launch NY office". Econsultancy Digital Marketers United. Retrieved 18 October 2004.
- "AKQA Ideas: Vol 1". Amazon.
- "AKQA revealed as agency behind Microsoft's Xbox 360 navigational interface". PR Week. Retrieved 20 May 2005.
- "AKQA Goes Mobile". Adweek. Retrieved 10 March 2006.
- Future Lions official web site
- "AKQA Acquires Search Agency". ClickZ. Retrieved 23 August 2007.
- "Digital A-List 2008: No. 2, AKQA". Ad Age. Retrieved 17 March 2008.
- Kiss, Jemima (24 December 2008). "Guardian Viral Video Chart: Christmas special". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 24 December 2008.
- "Behind the scenes: AKQA's Grand Prix winning Fiat campaign". Brand Republic. Retrieved 25 June 2009.
- "The Gunn Report 2011 Results". Creative Review. Retrieved 30 February 2012.
- "WPP Doubles Down On Digital, Buys Leading Agency AKQA". TechCrunch. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- "Heineken Star Player". Contagious Magazine. Retrieved 28 April 2011.
- "Heineken launches live football game StarPlayer". Creative Review. Retrieved 27 April 2011.
- "Best and Worst Ads of 2011". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 27 December 2011.
- Dredge, Stuart (28 February 2012). "MTV Under The Thumb app will stream shows with 'co-viewing' social features". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 28 February 2012.
- "Behind the scenes: AKQA's Grand Prix winning Fiat campaign". Marketing. Retrieved 25 June 2009.
- "AKQA, VW launch the 2010 GTI via iPhone". I Have An Idea.
- "Agency of the Year: AKQA". Adweek. Retrieved 12 December 2011.
- "Digital Agency of the Year: AKQA". Campaign. Retrieved 15 December 2011.
- "Comparethemarket.com, Spotify and AKQA triumph at Revolution Awards."BrandRepublic." Retrieved April 11, 2010.
- "The Guardian's Media 100". London: The Guardian. 8 July 2007. Retrieved 6 September 2012.
- "AKQA Is Creativity's First-Ever Interactive Agency of the Year". MarketingVOX. Retrieved 14 December 2005.
- Interview with co-founder and chief creative officer James Hilton on how the word ‘relevant’ has guided AKQA for more than 13 years.
- Growing Business meets AKQA's founder and CEO Web pioneer Ajaz Ahmed reveals how he built AKQA, the £73m turnover creative agency big brands use, to reach out to the internet generation by "taking a stand against "multimediocrity."
- Feature article in Fast Company by AKQA's CCO/VP Rei Inamoto on the end of advertising as we know it - and what to do now.
- AKQA on Facebook (the company's official and exclusive newsfeed)
- Google Think Quarterly interview
- Sunday Telegraph interview with Ajaz Ahmed
- Adweek "Agency of the Year" article
- Campaign "Digital Agency of the Year" article