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Subsidiary of WPP plc
FoundedMarch 2001 (2001-03) in San Francisco, USA and London, England
Area served
Key people
Ajaz Ahmed, CEO and Founder
Technology services
Media, search and analytics
(Digital) business transformation and Consulting
Interface design
Product development
Digital content creation and distribution
Social media marketing
RevenueUS$ 250 million (2012)[1]
Number of employees

AKQA is a digital agency that specialises in creating digital services and products. It employs 2,100 staff globally.

AKQA has offices in Europe (Aarhus, Amsterdam, Berlin, Copenhagen, Gothenburg, London, Milan, Paris, Venice), North America (Atlanta, New York, Portland, San Francisco, Washington, D.C.), South America (São Paulo), Asia (Gurgaon, Shanghai, Singapore, Tokyo, Bali) and Australasia (Auckland, Melbourne and Sydney).


AKQA was founded in 1994 in London by Ajaz Ahmed and James Hilton.[2]

In 2001, the company became AKQA Holdings Inc. after an investment of $70 million by Francisco Partners and Accenture, with San Francisco as its new headquarters and four offices in the UK, US and Asia. AKQA was merged with three other companies: Citron Haligman Bedecarre, Magnet Interactive and The AdInc.[3] With the CEO and CFO currently based in London as of 2019, its headquarters are arguably now in London. [4] [5]

In the same year, Nike Run London, a new branded sports format with 10,000 runners taking part was launched by AKQA for Nike. A year later, in 2002, Run London sold over 20,000 places in a few hours using an e-commerce platform designed by AKQA.

In 2003, AKQA created ideashappen.com in collaboration with Visa USA and MSN. The platform asked people to submit entrepreneurial and community-based ideas.[6] During its first month, the campaign attracted one million visitors. The agency also launched Nike Presto online with a collective of post-graffiti artists, where users could interact with art, sound and hidden animation.[7]

In 2004, the New York office opened to increase access to East Coast clients and talent.[8] AKQA also published AKQA Ideas: Volume 1, showcasing the agency’s work within 100 pages.[9] The book sold out on Amazon, with proceeds for the sale donated to the NSPCC and Prince’s Trust charities.

In 2005, AKQA Interface Design Practice helped Microsoft create the new user experience for the Xbox 360 gaming console.[10]

AKQA Mobile was launched as a specialist division in 2006.[11] In the same year, AKQA created the annual student competition Future Lions in collaboration with the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival. This yearly competition has since challenged students to "connect an audience to a product or service from a global brand in a way that wasn't possible five years ago."[12]

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.[13] In 2007, AKQA opened new offices in Amsterdam and Shanghai. The agency also acquired SearchRev and turned it into a dedicated search engine marketing practice.[14] Revenue grew by 45%. Fiat eco:Drive launched at the Paris Motor Show: an in-car app that helps drivers reduce their CO2 emissions and fuel consumption.

AKQA was named on the AdAge Digital A-List in 2008.[15] Work highlighted included 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.[16] Later that year, AKQA’s Christmas card – starring a chorus of harmonic microwaves – was a notable viral success and featured on more than 400 blogs.[17] The following year, AKQA was named in the AdAge Book of Tens as one of the outstanding agencies of the decade, and won the Cannes Lions Cyber Grand Prix for Fiat eco:Drive in June 2009.[18] Other notable work included 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.

In 2010, AKQA created key branded iPhone apps launching that year: Gap Style Mixer, Nike True City, Nigella Quick Collection, and VW Real Racing GTI. The agency also opened a third European office in Berlin.[19] A year later in 2011, Nike Training Club, one of the world's most downloaded training apps developed by AKQA, wins awards worldwide. In the same year, the dual screening game Heineken Star Player that AKQA created swept the board of global awards. These award wins resulted in AKQA being cited "most awarded digital agency" in 2011 by the Gunn Report,.[20]

In January 2012, AKQA opened a fourth European office in Paris, with Nike as founding client. Velocity was 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 joined WPP plc as an independent subsidiary within the world’s largest communications group.[21] 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%.[22] Later that year, AKQA opened two new US offices in Atlanta, Georgia and Portland, Oregon, followed by an eleventh office in Tokyo, Japan.[23]

In 2014, AKQA opened offices in São Paulo,[24] Brazil and Gurgaon, India.[25] In 2015, AKQA acquired Italian digital agency, H-ART,[26] and later that year opened its first Scandinavian office in Gothenburg.[27] In March 2016, AKQA took a major stake in software engineering and web development specialist Potato.[28] In August that year, the agency launched AKQA Casa, the new building of their São Paulo office.[29] In October 2017, AKQA appointed Alex Houghton as strategy director and Tim Baggott as associate creative director.[30]

In February 2017, AKQA opened offices in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore by rebranding the digital agency DT.[31]

In August 2017, AKQA opened offices in Copenhagen and Aarhus and thus expanded its Scandinavian presence by acquiring the Danish digital agency DIS/PLAY.[32]

AKQA purchased a majority stake in Universal Design Studio and Map Project Office in June 2018[33]

As part of Design Week Portland in 2019, AKQA trained a recurrent neural network and a deep convolutional generative adversarial network (AI) on over 400 sports with the aim of creating a new and original sport. Speedgate was created and recognised as the first sport envisioned by an AI.[34]

Later in 2019, AKQA won two Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity – the first for short film Bluesman, for Brazilian rapper Baco Exu do Blues in the Entertainment Lions for Music,[35] and the second for retail-cultural crossover Nike Graffiti Stores in the Media Lions.[36]

Awards and recognition[edit]

AKQA was among the top three of the best 25 companies to work for in Glassdoor's UK company review for 2016.[37] The company also won the Internet Advertising Bureau UK's Agency of the Year 2016 title[38] and was named Agency of the Year at the PromaxBDA Game Marketing Awards 2016 for its work across Activision, Bethesda Softworks, and Ubisoft.[39]

Nike Rise House of Mamba, the basketball initiative AKQA created for Nike China, was featured in the 2015 Gunn Report, ranking first in both Asia's most awarded integrated/titanium work in 2015 and most awarded digital ads in 2015. In addition, the project was included in the top 10 campaigns of 2015 across all Gunn Report media.[40] In 2015, AKQA was also named the most respected agency within Econsultancy’s annual report for the third year in a row – as voted for by other agencies entering in the Top 100.[41] In 2014, AKQA won Queen's Award for Enterprise: Innovation,[42] and was named Most Innovative Agency at 2014 Digiday Awards.[43] 2013 was the agency's most successful year at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity to date. It won 14 Lions including a gold Cyber Lion for Nike+ Kinect Training and a Titanium and Integrated Lion for Nike "Find your greatness".[44]

In 2011, AKQA was named Digital Agency of the Year by Adweek[45] and Campaign[46] 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 named AKQA the "most respected agency" as voted by industry peers.

In 2010, AKQA took home Agency of the Year for the second year running at the Revolution Awards,[47] and Agency of the Year awards from New Media Age and the Interactive Advertising Bureau. In 2009, AKQA won five separate Agency of the Year awards.

AKQA has previously been named Revolution’s Agency of the Decade (1997 to 2007).[48] In 2006 Creativity magazine gave AKQA its inaugural Interactive Agency of the Year award, recognising the agency's "global culture, creative hires and technological muscle." Creativity editor Teressa Iezzi said: "We thought AKQA embodied the spirit of the big-idea-first approach."[49]

In 2018, research company Gartner positioned AKQA as an industry leader in its "Magic Quadrant" for digital marketing agencies. AKQA measured the highest in the company's ability to execute and its business transformation capabilities.[50]

May 1, 2019, AKQA received People's Choice Agency of the Year at the Creativepool Awards in London.[51]


  1. ^ "Living in a digital world". Business Sense. May 21, 2012. Archived from the original on June 3, 2012. Retrieved May 23, 2012. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  2. ^ https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/articles/executive-insight-ajaz-ahmed.html
  3. ^ "AKQA founder Ahmed gets MBE in Queen's Birthday Honours". Retrieved 2018-07-22.
  4. ^ https://www.linkedin.com/in/ajaz-ahmed-80707082/. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ https://www.linkedin.com/in/jon-eggar-1a9220/. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ "AKQA Helps Visa Reach Dreamers". Adweek. Retrieved 25 April 2003.
  7. ^ "AKQA Launches Nike Web Presence for Asia Pacific Market". Adweek. Retrieved 21 March 2003.
  8. ^ "AKQA to open New York office: Lars Bastholm named executive creative director to launch NY office". Econsultancy Digital Marketers United. Retrieved 18 October 2004.
  9. ^ AKQA Ideas: Vol 1. ASIN 0954825705.
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  11. ^ "AKQA Goes Mobile". Adweek. Retrieved 10 March 2006.
  12. ^ Future Lions official web site
  13. ^ "Digital marketer AKQA to hire 100". San Francisco Business Times. October 29, 2010. Retrieved October 19, 2014.
  14. ^ "AKQA Acquires Search Agency". ClickZ. Retrieved 23 August 2007.
  15. ^ Mcilory, Megan. "Ad Age's Digital Agency of the Year Is Actually in the Business of Product Innovation". Ad Age.
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  17. ^ Kiss, Jemima (24 December 2008). "Guardian Viral Video Chart: Christmas special". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 24 December 2008.
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  31. ^ "Digital giant AKQA opens doors in Australia through rebadge of DT". www.mumbrella.com.au. Retrieved 2019-02-02.
  32. ^ "AKQA Acquires Danish Digital Agency DIS/PLAY". Adweek. Retrieved 2017-08-29.
  33. ^ Ravenscroft, Tim. "Barber and Osgerby sell stake in Universal Design Studio and Map". www.dezeen.com. Dezeen. Retrieved 15 April 2019.
  34. ^ "Artificial intelligence creates a new game". Washington Post. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  35. ^ ago, Doug Zanger|1 day. "U.S. Agencies Win 3 out of 4 Grand Prix Awards in Entertainment at Cannes Lions". www.adweek.com. Retrieved 2019-06-19.
  36. ^ "Nike wins big (again) scoring Cannes Grand Prix for Media". adage.com. 2019-06-19. Retrieved 2019-06-19.
  37. ^ "Do you work for one of the 25 best companies in Britain". The Telegraph. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
  38. ^ "IAB Creative Showcase 2016: The winners". IAB UK. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
  39. ^ "Microsoft Xbox wins Marketing team of the year at PromaxBDA Game Marketing Awards". PromaxBDA. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
  40. ^ "Japan's global creative awards status slides in Gunn Report as China rises". Mumbrella. January 2016. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
  41. ^ "Top 100 Digital Agencies Report 2015". London: Econsultancy. June 2015. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  42. ^ "AKQA wins the Queen's Award for Enterprise Innovation: AKQA". LBB Online. Retrieved October 19, 2014.
  43. ^ "AKQA named top agency at 2014 Digiday Awards". Digiday. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
  44. ^ "School Reports 2014: AKQA". Campaign UK. Retrieved October 19, 2014.
  45. ^ "Agency of the Year: AKQA". Adweek. Retrieved 12 December 2011.
  46. ^ "Digital Agency of the Year: AKQA". Campaign UK. Retrieved 15 December 2011.
  47. ^ "Comparethemarket.com, Spotify and AKQA triumph at Revolution Awards Archived 2010-04-12 at the Wayback Machine."BrandRepublic." Retrieved April 11, 2010.
  48. ^ "The Guardian's Media 100". The Guardian. London. 8 July 2007. Retrieved 6 September 2012.
  49. ^ "AKQA Is Creativity's First-Ever Interactive Agency of the Year". MarketingVOX. Archived from the original on 22 November 2008. Retrieved 14 December 2005. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  50. ^ "Gartner reveals leaders, challengers, visionaries and niche players in digital marketing". www.bestmediaifo.com. Retrieved 2018-05-15.
  51. ^ "Agency of the Year". Creativepool. www.creativepool.com.

External links[edit]