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Subsidiary of WPP plc
Founded March 2001 (2001-03) in San Francisco, USA and London, England
Area served
Key people
Ajaz Ahmed, CEO and Founder
Tom Bedecarré, Chairman
Services CRM
Technology services
Media, search and analytics
(Digital) Business Transformation and Consulting
Interface design
Product development
Digital content creation and distribution
Social media marketing
Revenue US$ 250 million (2012)[1]
Number of employees
Website akqa.com

AKQA is a digital agency that specializes in creating digital services and products. It employs 2,000 staff globally.

AKQA has offices in Europe (Amsterdam, Berlin, London, Paris), North America (Atlanta, New York, Portland, San Francisco, Washington, D.C.), South America (São Paulo) and Asia (Gurgaon, Shanghai, Tokyo).


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. 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.[3] 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.[4]

In 2004, the New York office opened to increase access to East Coast clients and talent.[5] AKQA also published AKQA Ideas: Volume 1, showcasing the agency’s work within 100 pages.[6] 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.[7]

AKQA Mobile was launched as a specialist division in 2006.[8] 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."[9]

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.[10] 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.[11] 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. 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.[12] 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.[13] 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.[14] 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. A year later in 2011, Nike Training Club, one of the world's most downloaded training apps, wins awards worldwide. Heineken Star Player, the innovative dual screening game, launched and swept the board of global awards. AKQA was cited "most awarded digital agency" by the Gunn Report,[15] and received international recognition on both sides of the Atlantic when named Agency of the Year by Campaign and Adweek.

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.[16] 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%.[17] Later that year, AKQA opened two new US offices in Atlanta, Georgia and Portland, Oregon, followed by an eleventh office in Tokyo, Japan.[18]

In 2014, AKQA opened offices in São Paulo,[19] Brazil and Gurgaon, India.[20] In 2015, AKQA acquired Italian digital agency, H-ART,[21] and later announced its first Scandinavian office will launch later this year in Gothenburg.[22]

Awards and recognition[edit]

In 2015, AKQA was 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.[23] In 2014, AKQA won Queen's Award for Enterprise: Innovation,[24] and was named Most Innovative Agency at 2014 Digiday Awards.[25] 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".[26]

In 2011, AKQA was named Digital Agency of the Year by Adweek[27] and Campaign[28] 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,[29] 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.

In 2016, AKQA switched focus to mainly create programmatic flash banners, for which they've been nominated for The Programmatic Flash Banner Award by the Flash Banner Council.

AKQA has previously been named Revolution’s Agency of the Decade (1997 to 2007).[30] 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."[31]


  1. ^ "Living in a digital world". Business Sense. May 21, 2012. Retrieved May 23, 2012. 
  2. ^ https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/articles/executive-insight-ajaz-ahmed.html
  3. ^ "AKQA Helps Visa Reach Dreamers". Adweek. Retrieved 25 April 2003. 
  4. ^ "AKQA Launches Nike Web Presence for Asia Pacific Market". Adweek. Retrieved 21 March 2003. 
  5. ^ "AKQA to open New York office: Lars Bastholm named executive creative director to launch NY office". Econsultancy Digital Marketers United. Retrieved 18 October 2004. 
  6. ^ "AKQA Ideas: Vol 1". Amazon. 
  7. ^ "AKQA revealed as agency behind Microsoft's Xbox 360 navigational interface". PR Week. Retrieved 20 May 2005. 
  8. ^ "AKQA Goes Mobile". Adweek. Retrieved 10 March 2006. 
  9. ^ Future Lions official web site
  10. ^ "Digital marketer AKQA to hire 100". bizjournals. October 29, 2010. Retrieved October 19, 2014. 
  11. ^ "AKQA Acquires Search Agency". ClickZ. Retrieved 23 August 2007. 
  12. ^ "Digital A-List 2008: No. 2, AKQA". Ad Age. Retrieved 17 March 2008. 
  13. ^ Kiss, Jemima (24 December 2008). "Guardian Viral Video Chart: Christmas special". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 24 December 2008. 
  14. ^ "Behind the scenes: AKQA's Grand Prix winning Fiat campaign". Brand Republic. Retrieved 25 June 2009. 
  15. ^ "The Gunn Report 2011 Results". Creative Review. Retrieved October 19, 2014. 
  16. ^ "WPP Doubles Down On Digital, Buys Leading Agency AKQA". TechCrunch. Retrieved 20 June 2012. 
  17. ^ "WPP Acquires AKQA to Beef Up Digital Marketing". New York Times. Retrieved October 19, 2014. 
  18. ^ "AKQA opens Tokyo office with launch clients Nike and Nissan". AdAge. November 8, 2012. Retrieved October 20, 2014. 
  19. ^ "AKQA expands presence in Asia". New York Times. June 1, 2014. Retrieved October 20, 2014. 
  20. ^ "AKQA expands presence in Asia". Campaign Brief Asia. July 29, 2014. Retrieved October 20, 2014. 
  21. ^ "AKQA acquires Italian digital agency H-Art". The Drum. 24 April 2015. Retrieved 4 August 2015. 
  22. ^ "Volvo Picks AKQA as Its Lead Digital Agency". Adweek. 13 May 2015. Retrieved 5 August 2015. 
  23. ^ "Top 100 Digital Agencies Report 2015". London: Econsultancy. June 2015. Retrieved 5 August 2015. 
  24. ^ "AKQA wins the Queen's Award for Enterprise Innovation: AKQA". LBB Online. Retrieved October 19, 2014. 
  25. ^ "AKQA named top agency at 2014 Digiday Awards". Digiday. Retrieved 5 November 2014. 
  26. ^ "School Reports 2014: AKQA". Campaign UK. Retrieved October 19, 2014. 
  27. ^ "Agency of the Year: AKQA". Adweek. Retrieved 12 December 2011. 
  28. ^ "Digital Agency of the Year: AKQA". Campaign UK. Retrieved 15 December 2011. 
  29. ^ "Comparethemarket.com, Spotify and AKQA triumph at Revolution Awards."BrandRepublic." Retrieved April 11, 2010.
  30. ^ "The Guardian's Media 100". London: The Guardian. 8 July 2007. Retrieved 6 September 2012. 
  31. ^ "AKQA Is Creativity's First-Ever Interactive Agency of the Year". MarketingVOX. Retrieved 14 December 2005. 

External links[edit]