Adding six new clients and scoring an AOR with Volkswagen of America, it was a solid year for this independently- owned It Lister. Clients report they “outsmart their competitors, instead of outspend them.” Some smart moves this year: increasing Volkswagen leads by 84 percent with a family-centric activation that served up waffles, cargo challenges and spin art; and digging into the flourishing health category with a sampling climbing wall for Gone Rogue high-protein chips at Spartan races. Tasty.
With a director of growth and a director of employee experience now on board, three-year-old Advoc8 is poised to keep its momentum going. Just as impressive? New clients including YouTube, TOMS and The Washington Post. Its Google activation at last year’s Aspen Ideas Festival built on a design that went beyond the typical white-frame tent and married relaxation with technology. No power? No problem. Renewable energy offered a creative solution and enhanced Google’s brand message. There’s no “plug and play” at Advoc8.
Luxury brands like Dior, Essence, Goop and Rodeo Drive turn to Agenc (formerly known as Caravents), for big ideas and complicated logistics like managing a premiere in four countries simultaneously or orchestrating 140 brand partners into a single experience. Launched PUMA’s DEFY brand with influencer seeding, AR-triggered wild postings and a three-block activation, and transformed the bow of a WWII battleship into a theatrical experience for Amazon’s “Jack Ryan.”
Flagship client Hilton has been on board for seven years now—EA has executed more than 75 activations and events in five countries for the hotelier. Rebranded in 2019 to celebrate 20 years in the biz, with a refined brand message and website. Continues to expand capabilities year after year, most recently growing in strategy, measurement and analytics, content and demand generation. Expanded its office space, and now occupies the entire 311 West Walton building in Chicago.
With plenty of experience at the biggies like Comic-Con, Allied has become one of the agencies specializing in reaching superfans. This year enlisted Júlíus Björnsson (a.k.a. The Mountain from “Game of Thrones”) for a stunt with Krazy Glue involving a test by the “strongest man in the world.” And challenged design students to create gowns for “Bridezillas.” This “nimble” team embedded in a global agency doubled its staff this year, and added a head of creative and director of creative strategy.
Putting purpose into practice lies at the core of female-led August Jackson. Part of privately- held Arc Holdings, which specializes in event logistics, management and production, in the past three years AJ has achieved 40 percent revenue growth. Recently expanded in-house video capabilities for maximizing storytelling and clients’ budgets, developed a new employee engagement practice and now offers a Campaign Readiness service for higher education institutions and health-focused organizations to inspire donors and drive results.
Ever visit the World of Trolls pop-up in New York City? Thatspace, with 207 yards of colored fur, 20 yards of glitter vinyl, 122 custom-mixed paint colors and rainbow path represents BeCore’s experiential creativity. That, plus digital, social and data elements, along with employees empowered with on-the-spot decision-making, no doubt inspired Harley-Davidson to name BeCore as AOR and has kept Red Bull on the roster for 20 years.
Net revenue growth last year of 66 percent continued Bespoke’s streak of double-digit increases. Existing clients are re-signing and word-of-mouth is adding new ones. Boosts traditional sports sponsorships with media-driven partnerships, like the Pilot Flying J SEC experience powered by an ESPN brand integration and social/p.r. stunts. A Tailgate Chair Tour for Academy Sports included content production and talent relationships along with an immersive footprint at 79 events that featured the retailer’s giant iconic folding chairs.
FOCUS SPLIT: 90% B-to-C, 10% B-to-B CLIENTS INCLUDE: Academy Sports & Outdoors, Credit One Bank, First Data, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pilot Flying J WEB:bespokesportsmarketing.com RFP CONTACT:Greg Busch, firstname.lastname@example.org
Marked its 15th anniversary with a brand refresh, the first since its 2003 launch (Kiehl’s, a first client, is still a client today). Scored valuable client wins like Colgate for the launch of its first Total toothpaste product innovation in 20 years—said the client, “Somehow, team BMF managed to make toothpaste cool.” For its monochromatic Pantone Pantry by Tribute Portfolio at Art Basel, earned 260 million media impressions and doubled the size of Tribute’s Instagram audience.
Among headlines this year: Grew by 30 percent. Hired Diane Kerwin as creative director. Opened two new satellite offices in New York and Phoenix. Got a dog. Doubled its project scope with 12-year trade show client Mercedes-Benz by winning the general session at its National Parts Service Meeting. Also, scored new business with Thomas Built Buses, going from A/V provider to full-meeting execution on a three-year, no-bid contract. Expanded its spirits roster by handling tour logistics and build-outs for Jim Beam.
When your founders pioneered New York City’s model for private/public partnerships within the mayor’s office, you know the roots are strong. Put its chops to the test for Ford with the opening of Michigan Central Station in Detroit with more than 24,000 attendees, coverage on The New York Times front page and a spot on “CBS This Morning.” Managed Audible’s 360-degree campaign at SXSW.
Activated two massive programs for adidas at Coachella 2019, Beyoncé Project Yellow and the adidas Sports Club, and reinvigorated Heineken House to be more connected with a beer garden where fans could enjoy a cold one and still see performances up close. For creativity from head to toe, partnered with Atlanta’s Silver Moon Barbershop to launch adidas Originals Basketball shoes with free haircuts and giveaways, NBA and WNBA athlete appearances and live radio remote broadcasts.
Specializes in business meetings, corporate events, internal communications, concerts and more where companies and non-profits connect with internal audiences. Transformed Southwest Airlines’ employee rallies from the ground up, tripling attendees with satellite events. And has proven it can shift on the fly, as it did for Edible Arrangements’ franchisee convention when a new ceo with a new vision showed up mid-way through the planning cycle. CPG delivered, and franchisees ate it up.
The family-owned b-to-b Boston shop keeps investing in systems, processes and that unique “studio model” that mixes on-demand talent and capabilities. Clients praise great ideas, an end-to-end control of the process, agility, and call Cramer a partner that loves to collaborate. Recently launched an intelligence service and research analysis offering, both of which will continue Cramer’s longstanding watchful eye on data and trends. A handful of new hires are adding oomph in strategy, communications and creativity.
Proprietary trend reports, a thought leadership series, Gen Z councils, partnerships and joint ventures keep CSM, part of the Chime Challenger Network, abreast of what’s new and what’s next. Brought MLB to London for the first time with the iconic Yankees v. Red Sox rivalry and Armageddon to Austin with a 19,000-square-foot Prime Video “Good Omens” activation that sent teams of angels, nuns, demons and the Four Horsemen to the streets.
The masterminds behind viral programs for Taco Bell—including the one-billion-impression-earning “Demolition Man”-inspired Taco Bell 2032 pop-up at Comic-Con—are spicing things up for Applegate and new client Starbucks. Added an “experience design tank” where staff explores ideas with a cast of thought leaders like a chef and industrial designer. Among complex engagements they’ve dreamed up: a VoIP system for secret call-in reservations and an interactive projection-mapped social media tagboard.
Looking for the fresh and unconventional, maybe even outlandish? Look no further. Founded in 2006 as a spin-off of Carnegie Mellon, Deeplocal engineers and creatives masterminded the Google Assistant Ride at CES 2019, an amusement park-style ride complete with train cars, photo ops and its own song to depict the life of an animatronic dad. Also built Google Hardware Store pop-ups in New York and Chicago, and so much more. Never does the same thing twice—and we like it.
Develops custom-built, kick-ass experiences for fans of gaming, esports and entertainment using virtual, augmented and mixed reality, spatial computing and more. A “Mr. Mercedes” experience at San Diego Comic-Con immersed fans of the AT&T AUDIENCE network series via full-set build-outs, an AR companion app that created an on-site narrative and teasers, a VR escape room, projection mapping and holographic technology, leading to an increase in viewership and 620 million media impressions. We’re still talking about the Ex Award-winning Puppy Rumble for Blizzard Entertainment. Cute. Overload.
CORE 1: P.R. Events/Stunts CORE 2: Mobile Tours CORE 3:Trade Show programs
Has expanded its proprietary network of lifestyle, social and automotive influencers and content marketing platforms, ensuring even more shareable drive experiences to thrill and inspire people to fall in love with their next new car. Handles scheduling logistics, stores and manages fleets of marketing vehicles across the country, even along the treacherous roads from British Columbia to the Arctic Ocean where journalists and influencers experienced Mazda’s Activ-AWD systems—and lived to tell about it.
Got its start in event tech and it shows, offering gamification solutions, AR/VR, measurement and backend software support. Beefing up its creative team to address a full pipeline of prospective clients. Toggles easily between large-scale trade shows to corporate events to mobile tours. Like one for client Nickelodeon’s “Sunny Day” mobile salon activation across 54 Walmarts, engaging 40,000 consumers. Parents reportedly asked if the activation could be rented for private parties.
CORE 1: Mobile Tours CORE 2:Sampling CORE 3:B-to-B Meetings/Events
FOCUS SPLIT:80% B-to-C, 20% B-to-B CLIENTS INCLUDE: Carnival Cruise Line, Danone North America, Delta Air Lines, The J.M. Smucker Company, Viacom WEB:elitemg.com RFP CONTACT:Matthew Klein, email@example.com
What does it take to create a pop-up Colombian coffee farm on Michigan Ave. in the dead of winter? E&R knows, and has the production prowess to pull it off. Additional capabilities: content creation, post-activation KPIs, real-time event management, data and measurement, predictive analytics, geo-enabled check-ins, social media and asset tracking. And that McCafe Sustainable coffee pop-up? It woke up 1,200 visitors and achieved 205,000 views.
Brought in 18 new clients and hired 50 new people, including a new head of creative—grew the internal creative team by 120 percent. Digging into esports and showing it knows what’s up; handled Bud Light’s sponsorship of Overwatch League, and the Ex Award-winning eMLS Cup Presented by PlayStation at PAX East for the FIFA gaming community, resulting in more than 1.4 million live viewers on Twitter, more than 56,000 peak viewers on Twitch, and an average watch time of 27 minutes—a new MLS record.
FOCUS SPLIT:85% B-to-C, 15% B-to-B CLIENTS INCLUDE:American Family Insurance, Anheuser-Busch, Hilton, Major League Soccer, Mercedes-Benz USA WEB:engineshopagency.com RFP CONTACT: Jonathan Sonkin, firstname.lastname@example.org
Among accolades this “agency without walls” earned this year: Fortune’s 2018 “100 Best Companies to Work For,” and Forbes’ 2019 list of “America’s Best Workplaces for Diversity.” Brought in a cocktail strategist to support client Bacardi USA (11 years), and launched the brand’s new ultra-premium elderflower liqueur with Maison St. Germain for bon vivants, inspired by the decadent parties of the 1920s. Naturally, it experienced some “joie de vivre” with more than 4.6 million views of its Instagram Stories and 103 million impressions.
Corporate events, trade shows and incentive programs for global technology companies lie at the heart of this fast-growing group as more clients in different industries sign on. ESG now produces all apps in-house and has streamlined registration processes, and several event managers are Cvent-certified for even greater efficiencies. Work for longtime client Lenovo continues, from 20-person customer events to 1,500-attendee internal conferences. And the Lenovo “vortex” booth at MWC? Lively, compact and visually stunning.
Its partners met while working on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, so respect for pageantry, scope and iconic institutions “remains in the DNA of what we do every day.” This 13-year It Lister hired its first content producer. (Look up his award-wining web series “Soon by You.”) For client Nike Communications, handled Gillette’s The Art of Shaving events. Was brought in to revitalize Susan G. Komen’s Race for the Cure. The result: the new Komen More Than Pink Walk.
Won four new clients this year, and snagged a gold Ex Award for its Cigna Health Improvement Tour, custom mobile clinics that provided free health screenings and wellness counseling to underserved communities. Activated simultaneous employee events celebrating Micron Technology’s 40th Anniversary in Boise, ID, Shanghai and Singapore, some with more than 10,000 employees. Created and produced a single client conference event for American Electric & Power and their partners, called The Illumination Conference, which recreated a high-tech, life-size “town.”
How many agencies can say they’ve gotten clearance from Homeland Security, engineered a liquid nitrogen experience or put live kangaroos on South Beach? EventNetUSA has, along with guerrilla sampling, pop-ups, mobile activations and more. Another plus: the ability to reach consumers ages 55-plus at malls and festivals thanks to a history of producing Medicare events, and a proprietary network where brands can reach savvy seniors.
With “sought after” tour supervisors and staff, this group works across all segments, but automotive, media, technology and endurance sports are its “sweet spot.” Recognized by client FCA as a supplier with a high-ranking status for spending with, and development of, minority-, disabled veteran- and women-owned suppliers. Built FCA’s track for the RAM 1500 with a 16-foot-tall mountain (18,500 consumers engaged). Also activated Chrysler’s Cars 4 Classrooms at 150-plus schools.
Independently owned and founded by client-side career marketing profs Gaby and Jason, this New York City-based group has a ring-side view of the ever-changing consumer landscape. Bolstered its staff this year with a new creative director. And handled the launch for Nestlé’s Garden of Life brand’s new nutrition bar GOL Bars, soup to nuts, from installation to sponsorship negotiation, logistics, permitting and staffing. The sampling activations garnered an average of five-minutes dwell time per visitor.
Added this year some c-level roles in the Americas, named its Dublin office a hub, added 10 accounts—as well as 160 team members, a record, due to a “major” new client in the tech space. Managed The New York Times New Rules Summit with a power cast of speakers, including New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Melinda Gates, whose Facebook live-stream from the event garnered more than 90,000 views.
FOCUS SPLIT: 5% B-to-C, 95% B-to-B CLIENTS INCLUDE:Fresenius Medical Care North America, Prudential, The New York Times, Univision Communications, Verizon Media WEB:firstagency.com RFP CONTACT:Jeremy Woolf, email@example.com
For more than 90 years, the family-owned and family-run mega-company has been here—and there… and everywhere. With the XP spinoff agency moniker officially transitioned out, the company now puts its pedal to the metal with a single brand: Freeman. Is adding new products, services and solutions to meet changing industry needs. Adding additional capabilities via smartacquisitions in strategic areas. And betting big on data: Expanded those chops this yearwith a new Freeman Data Solutions software offering.
Acquisition three years ago by WME | IMG (now rebranded as Endeavor) gives Fusion access to agencies, properties and influencers that its clients might never afford otherwise, and in turn, more new business coming through those channels. Offerings include trade shows, nationwide tours, meetings, travel and incentive marketing services, program execution and logistics. Fans loved the Bud Light Victory Fridge (it unlocks when the team wins). It was the most successful marketing initiative of 2018 across every A-B brand.
This agency believes in the power of the fan. The result? Everybody wins. Clients span automotive, spirits, technology and lifestyle brands, and work for PAX Labs puts G7 at the forefront of the ever-expanding cannabis industry. Handles music licensing, talent negotiations, creative direction and project management for large-scale productions, like Acura at Sundance Film Festival with 34 performances over 10 days, and fan experiences at tour stops around the world, most recently for Taylor Swift and Shawn Mendes.
They’ve scooped up a litany of industry honors this year, including the Ex Award for Cheerio’s “Moments of Good” campaign. Orchestrated a full Atlanta takeover during Super Bowl for IHG Hotels & Resorts over four days with seven hotel brands—planned in just over one month’s time (Think: A Holiday Inn Express pancake truck, roaming Holiday Inn street performers, and a football video game projected onto the side of a building for fans to enjoy).
The acquisition of Kenwood Experiences adds to the talent pool and client roster (with the addition of Capcom and Square Enix) at GPJ. The new office in Brazil adds another pin to the global footprint. And some key new hires—and promotions (congrats Fiona)—are putting solid people in greater control of the work and the direction of one of the industry’s oldest event agencies. Part of the Project: Worldwide global collection of agencies.
Its legacy in music events and its new push into hospitality came together for the W Hotels launch of its W Records label, complete with content, a concert, hand-cut seven-inch records for attendees and a “recording booth” photo op. Also launched Marriott’s Times Square Edition Hotel property, working with Ian Schrager, featuring a five-night marathon of shows, JumboTron content, glamour and a performance by Diana Ross, among ’70s icons. Have you visited Manhattan’s Samsung 837? Yep, that permanent branded event space is Giant Step, too.
Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, GMR is, the company says, “just getting started.” And they’re not kidding. Expanded the c-suite to elevate focus on consumer insights, client relations and growth; hired a former Nike executive to enhance global presence; and brought on a new head of research. A favorite from the portfolio: a results-busting program for Corning Gorilla Glass featuring an entertainment partnership with Imagine Dragons, plus a global digital scavenger hunt and an Origins Experience event in Las Vegas for the winners.
This agency knows how to tell a story, and win clients along the way. Producing the CMO Club Summit in Nashville this past year led to new business, including Highmark Health, which was so impressed by the stage design, the band and Spoken Word artist, that it booked them all for its own event. And The Greatest Showman theme at the 2018 KB Home Supplier conference? Pure magic.
The approach at this It List newcomer is on “whole brain” integration—strategies where logic and imagination meet, and hook up in some pretty dynamic experiences for clients across lifestyle and luxury industries (think: Insta-worthy spaces). Take the pop-up shop for the launch of Clinique ID, the brand’s first custom-blend hydration system. The experience incorporated facial recognition technology that not only scanned and diagnosed attendees’ faces, but also recommended the appropriate products, and measured demographics, visits and on-site purchase results.
Focused on experiential since U.K.-based Talon purchased its out-of-home vertical, Grandesign is known for San Diego Comic-Con activations. Works with entertainment brands, b-to-b clients and, most recently, cannabis. Teamed up with HBO to deliver CBD lattes, drip coffee and cold brews to California beach-goers and NYC commuters to promote “High Maintenance.” And its camp-inspired Adult Swim State Park activation really made a splash with hard-to-impress fans.
Grow continues to differentiate, most recently with an initiative called Root + Rise, a practice devoted to helping brands actualize values and bolster bottom lines through employee engagement. Another differentiator—navigating regulations and creating experiences in the now legalized adult recreational cannabis industry that educate consumers and connect with top growers. It also took a financial meeting to a new high—adding augmented reality, data visualization and robots.
Maintains some of the oldest sports and entertainment partnerships in the biz; Coca-Cola has been a believer for 22 years. Now the Havas Worldwide unit offers a new sponsorship and partnership consulting practice while continuing to deliver innovative experiences like PUMA’s U.S. soccer events. Does a ton of work for TracFone Wireless and manages Miles for Migraines for Novartis. Just completed its fourth Coca-Cola FIFA World Cup tour—six continents in three months.
Navigating municipal politics, permitting, logistics, security, weather ops and more, and doing it all with creativity, are a walk in the park for iDEKO. Who else could shut down the Manhattan Bridge for the first time ever for the Nike Go Run 5K? Or partner with NASA to create a tennis match 240 miles above Earth, then projection map the zero-gravity rallies on the iconic Queens Unisphere? And did you watch the Wallenda hire-wire stunt? iDEKO rules—and breaks the rules—when it comes to making the “impossible” possible.
With offices in nine countries, the global powerhouse packed a punch this year with media launches and events including massive projection mapping at Ford Field for Ford’s Explorer 2020 and a Greenfield Village takeover to create Escapeville for the 2019 Escape. Launched a fully functioning Old Forester Distillery and visitor center, a series of events for Shell across the Americas, and partnered with artificial intelligence agency RAIN to create even more meaningful, human and immersive brand experiences.
CORE 1:Trade Show Programs CORE 2:Launch Events CORE 3:Press Events
Traditionally focused on sports, hospitality and telecom, but recently expanded into sponsorship and retail. Capabilities include design, 3D rendering, interior design and video solutions. Added a new L.A. office. Entered in a partnership with Refinery29 to expand the 29Rooms campaign. Activated an entire music festival for W Hotels with Wake Up Call in Hollywood, Barcelona and Bali. Produced Chrissy Teigen’s #CravingsFest with 800 superfans, resulting in 100 million Twitter impressions.
With thousands of events, tours and activations under its belt and a broad client roster to boot, Chad Tons’ Infinity is tackling sustainability with a new division to serve clients like Adobe MAX. Also boosted its digital and production team, which means more field techs at events and custom apps. And clients love its think-tank creative process involving internal teams, artists and creatives. Its Uber Elevate Summit drew a sold-out crowd and generated nearly two billion impressions.
When it comes to spicing activations up, IG’s fleet of culinary vehicles deliver. The vintage DRAFT (Dynamic Restaurant Aboard Fire Truck) has fed hungry Notre Dame fans by the thousands. MAXimus (Mobile Activation Experience), with a professional-grade kitchen, high-def monitors and outdoor speakers, fueled auto buyers and ticket sales at Mecum Auctions. INSITE Hospitality has cooked up first-class amenities like private bathrooms and climate-controlled suites for music festivals.
With six new accounts, a new chief engagement officer and a new creative director, Inspira, the agency that gives back ($1 million raised for childhood cancer research to date), is firing on all cylinders. On top of account and creative teams, boasts an in-house strategy and analytics department for customized measurement solutions for clients. Among work this year, designed Jeep’s “Champions of Adventure” experience at the X Games, and activated a fresh foodie experience for Castello Cheese with a beer pairing.
CORE 1:Sampling CORE 2: Mobile Tours CORE 3:Sponsorship Activation
With seven years under its belt, North keeps heating up. Created the LinkedIn Studio at SXSW, the brand’s festival debut, which saw more than 4,300 visitors over the three days. Built an immersive pop-up in Chicago for Air New Zealand. Produced Propel Co:Labs Fitness Festival for PepsiCo that earned a gold Ex Award. Ran activations for Under Armour, Netflix, Hermès, Spotify and Away Travel. Moved its HQ into a larger NYC space after adding 12 new faces to the team.
Now operating eight offices across the globe—Singapore being the latest—works across five countries and four continents. Live brand storytelling is its north star. Acquired 16 new clients, including Microsoft, Facebook and Pfizer. Launched HEVE, which combines storytelling with predictive analytics. Designed and produced TEDxSydney on a tight budget with strict sustainability guidelines. After producing Xerocon, Australasia’s largest tech conference for the accounting industry, landed global work with the company.
After 80 years, Jack is still pushin’, with more than 5,000 experiences and almost 100 awards (globally) in 2018 alone. How? Through global collaboration, increasing its female creative and executive teams and a Genuine X division focused on the future of brand experiences. Its “Be an Outsider at Work” campaign for L.L. Bean, with outdoor co-working spaces outfitted with wifi, power and cycling desks, garnered national buzz and added fresh air to office life.
Grew 15 percent last year owing to organic growth and client partnerships and is expanding its roster beyond food service and pharmaceuticals into technology, multi-level marketing, beauty and franchising. Created an award-winning app and website that boosted engagement and personalization at McDonald’s Worldwide Convention; and took HP’s global partner conference evening celebration out of the ballroom and into the outdoors, adding local flavors, craft beer and sustainability throughout the space.
Guided by an “experience is everything” mantra, Legacy leverages its clients’ biggest business obstacles as the driving force behind its solutions, and incorporates a data capture strategy into each and every campaign. Specializes in engaging millennials and Gen Z, but works across a range of target demos. Helped client Jameson become the first-ever non-beer brand allowed into the Great American Beer Festival with a “Barrel-Aged Beer Garden.”
The mighty LEO was established in 2012, but the seasoned shop maintains a startup mentality that has led to a 914-percent growth rate over the last seven years. Incorporates everything from cashless payment systems to social media-driven vending machines into its events, which last year ranged from the KAABOO music festival series to a symposium for the National Civil Rights Museum honoring the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s death. A business philosophy rooted in southern hospitality keeps clients coming back for more.
With a team that has worked on both the client and agency sides of the biz, Manifold expertly blends its creative chops with client needs. Added tech giants Apple, Facebook and Google to its client roster, (um, wow!), and rolled out new internal policies in the areas of volunteerism, culture and corporate sustainability. Took its design-led approach cross-country for a High West Distillery mobile tour featuring a portable saloon that paid homage to Utah’s rail history.
What began in 2005 as an event design firm with a focus on fashion has evolved into a full-service agency. Re-branded in 2018 and secured DSW’s events business. The brains behind the Beauty and Style Expo and the Life Style and Empowerment areas at Essence Festival, it created the carnival-themed environment and on-site activations for L’Oréal, Coty and J&J. Sponsor opportunities sold out and attendance jumped by 30 percent. Beautiful.
The Crossmark-owned Chicago agency continues to focus on evolution in experiential and shopper channels. A partnership with sibling PromoWorks combines MW’s experiential expertise with retail engagement. Added Sam’s Club to the roster and grew its Kraft-Heinz relationship, grilling hotdogs outside the iconic Wienermobile and, particularly buzz-worthy, a Country Time Legal-Ade campaign recognizing kids’ rights to permit-free lemonade stands in Denver. Talk about making lemonade out of lemons.
What was once an independent studio of 20 designers, strategists and creative wizards is now a team of 60 spanning NYC, L.A. and San Francisco. The high-end Brooklyn-based agency has been one of the industry’s best kept secrets—the work for the Google family of companies has long been considered some of the industry’s best brand experiences and high-profile launches. As an official unit of the growing Opus Agency empire, the formerly independent MAS sets its sights on killer work for killer clients.
Looking to optimize your events through precise measurement? Match has your back with a proprietary event planning model. Seeking a customized data capture tool for events? The team just unveiled personalized client “Hubs” that fuel hyper-local programs. Aiming to produce more environmentally responsible experiences? The agency sees zero-waste events as the wave of the future. And there are no egos here—refining creative concepts based on real-time feedback is how Match rolls.
Situated at the intersections of music, influencers, fashion, art, automotive, film, technology and the fan experience, Mirrored Media continues to shine with double the staff, more than double the revenue, longtime clients and plenty of new ones lining up to work with them. Reached nearly one billion fans through social media, press and marketing surrounding its third-straight BMWi Road to Coachella campaign and wrapped up the year with The Grove’s annual holiday tree lighting, seen by millions on CBS’s “Home for the Holidays,” for retail magnate Caruso.
CORE 1:Buzz/Influencer Programs CORE 2:Sponsorship Activation CORE 3:Trade Show Programs
A certified LGBTQ and certified minority-owned business; leadership is 90 percent female and most work targets millennials and Gen Z in the retail, luxury, tech and media categories. Reintroduced FILA’s classic Mindblower sneaker through retail experiences in NYC, Tokyo and Seoul, digital, in-store programming and OOH, resulting in a sold-out collection and more work for the brand. And those grapefruit cocktails at Coachella created good vibes and solidified Absolut as “Planet Earth’s Favorite Vodka.”
If there was an award for consistency, Momo would get into the hall of fame. No agency has sustained this long in a space known for fickle clients, agencies that heat up and cool down—and account execs that jump from shop to shop. Add to it all the global scale of so many of Momentum’s activations and you cannot deny that the company—still managed by Chris Weil and his leadership team after all these years—has never been better.
Did you see our fave Mosaic campaign—the Sephoria program for Sephora? It garnered 1.4 billion earned media impressions and highlights this Chicago-based experiential unit’s human emotion- and feelings-focused creative work. They have been hiring new operations and creative leads, shuffling a few offerings and investing in people and products. Tactical offerings include audience-targeting, social listening and measurement tools, and a new Deconstruction Process that analyzes retailers, client brands, the category and competition to design a roadmap for growth.
“You will find no bigger ideas than the ones Motive brings us,” one client cooed. Yes, the once-independent badass is now a staple inside Project: Worldwide’s holding company—but having access to resources ain’t a bad thing. If you look at the last 12 months, the Denver agency that has refused to be defined since day one is churning out some of its best work ever. Case in point: The Ex Award-winning Mtn Dew Snow Dance that had millennials skiing with a sasquatch. Has fatherhood tamed ceo Matt Statman? Oh, hardly.
Think collaborative, think “cool,” as in its expanded in-house Collaborative Center workspace for freelancers, and new Think Tank and Zen rooms. But cool alone doesn’t cover the half of it. Backs it up with the power to drive results: Transformed a boring ballroom Marketplace at Dynatrace’s user conference into a hip lounge with a live demo theater, customer and partner sessions and a Microsoft HoloLens experience that changed attendee perception and the whole feel of the event. Totally cool.
A crew of artists, strategists, technicians and storytellers, the N/A team thrives on creating never-been-done-before experiences and partnering with adventurous brands. Marked five years in the biz with a second office, a brand refresh and a slate of new clients. Works with everyone from Twitter (a client since day one) to brands just entering experiential. Produced a hotel launch for citizenM featuring disco dancers, “naughty gnomes” and a contortionist. Just another day at N/A.
The always-authentic West Coast sports, entertainment and retail independent continues to keep itself large and in charge, with continued work for longtime clients and the industry’s deepest bench of esports programs. Make no mistake: NCompass was perfecting its esports offerings and winning global esports activations before you even knew what esports was—few agencies know that landscape better. Still managed by some of the industry’s most respected agency owners and senior leadership teams.
Building on 15 years of campus marketing and reaching millennials (and now Gen Z) via college bookstore activations, Newbridge is expanding into custom trade show booth build-outs for brands like Brew Dr. Kombucha and L.L. Bean, and a food truck sampling tour for Brew Dr. in Brooklyn and the Hamptons. Began implementing on-site tracking for impressions, visitors and dwell time, while its Chatbot Messenger Experience for the Razer Gaming Tour served up lots of juicy data.
This agency’s been on a 25-year hunt for new ways to create meaningful interactions. The latest? The Hangar, a technology-fueled mobile experience that deployed Leap Motion, Microsoft Kinect 2, Apple ARKit and more to attract potential new recruits for the Air Force, generating hundreds of qualified leads in the process. Or the two-minute thrill ride for Cox Communications that takes audiences on a drone race via VR technology.
They say: “Deeply connected to culture and the people that drive it, NVE’s driving force is an unshakeable belief in an event’s ability to shape sentiment and build connections.” Fuses large-scale experiential production with a deep understanding of culture to develop programs “that are shifting the paradigm for the entire experiential industry.” Worked with academic Thales Teixera on a new experiential metric formula and acquired media company The Future Party.
Founded in 2016 to support small agencies with big ideas they couldn’t execute, OA has become a full-service house specializing in consumer journeys, scripting, direction, gamification, experience design, video documentation and event technology. Replicated NBC’s “The Good Place” neighborhood at San Diego Comic-Con, generating triple the impressions of previous years, and just launched an Immersive Core team of theater innovators to create and execute more remarkable brand experiences.
Leverages the world’s biggest sports and entertainment events—we’re talking the PGA, NFL, MLB, NBA, NCAA and more—for an A-list client roster. This year boosted its expertise in tech with the “Go Photo” booth (custom overlays and filters) and other tech-fueled experiences. Our fave of the year: Transformed the Moscow Intercontinental into the Bud Hotel, a non-stop party house for 2,200 guests during the 2018 FIFA World Cup. A viewing experience on two Bud Boats and a Bud Club were pretty rollicking, too.
A heck of a lot going on here. New and notable: Managed the Cheez-It Bowl 2018; launched a California pop-up tour for Tonal, an at-home digital weight machine; and showcased Rothy’s shoes at the Makers Conference. Empowered black women to reach financial goals through panels and discussions via the Advancing Black Pathways tour in partnership with Chase and Essence. Created an in-house Diversity & Inclusion Group and maintains a diverse supplier network.
This year’s One to Watch. The appointment of new president Jeff Stelmach (known for his tenure running Mosaic) and new chief creative officer John Trinanes (former head of creative at GPJ) sends a signal that Opus ceo Monte Wood is officially going all in—everywhere. With a massive wave of investments, acquisitions, attention and account wins still continuing, by next year Opus could possibly be the biggest company on the It List. Not kidding.
This 33-year-old veteran was born from the racing industry and has evolved into one of the largest independent event agencies in the country without losing sight of its small business roots. Added two new clients in 2018, launched Ipsy’s first foray into experiential marketing, and signed a multi-year contract to manage IndyCar’s corporate hospitality event program. Runs on a “Listen. Develop. Execute.” philosophy, tapping into its clients’ culture to develop a customized strategy. And any agency with a dedicated “war room” has to mean business.
Experts at events with on-site selling as the main goal and converting shoppers into buyers, like the 3M Command event in Walmart parking lots where college students could buy 3M hooks and picture strips to decorate their dorm rooms. Square technology facilitated on-the-spot purchases. The 10-day activation (two days per market) averaged 55 percent sales conversion rates, and overall program lift was 18 percent. Cha-ching.
Investments in creative services, production and business development has paid off in some of the most exciting and talked about events of the past year. Like the WeWork Global Summit and Creator Global Finals, which incorporated two events over a three-day period in one venue, plus work on Land O’Lakes—The Food Effect, which involved an interactive sculpture, dynamic infographic and avocado ball pit. Committed to sustainability best practices and helping an impressive roster of new and existing clients achieve zero-waste goals.
Have you ever produced an activation 15 days after the creative briefing? These guys did for client Bubly in three markets during Super Bowl weekend. The agency specializes in national and retail-specific programs that engage buyers, and boasts an on-site warehouse where services like printing and kitting are offered. Context is king for this industry vet, which laser-focuses on attendee pain points and the environment that a brand message is delivered in. Frito-Lay has been a client for 25 years.
This employee-owned shop and team of 25 (truly, some of the nicest people in the business) has never lost a client—thanks to powerful content creation, transparent budgeting and Broadway-caliber creative flush with the latest A/V tricks and tech. Added two staffers and expanded its Manhattan-based office to another floor in 2018 (it includes a mindfulness room). Prides itself on cross-pollinating creative concepts derived from its work in a variety of verticals. Long-time client T-Mobile may have said it best: “You are all talented and professional to the core in everything you do.”
Minority- and women-owned since 2002, its specialty is conferences and private events that are fun and memorable, mainly for tech, automotive and hospitality clients. Is expanding into b-to-c in CPG, financial services and medical, and just moved into open, airy digs that facilitate team collaboration. Isn’t afraid to push boundaries—like jazzing up a corporate conference reception with a temporary tattoo parlor station—and as it grows, remains committed to its tagline: Outplan. Outplay. Outparty.
Expanded with five key hires and eight new clients, opened an office in Dubai, established its Chance for Life fundraiser as a non-profit, celebrated 15 years with GEICO and formed Women of RedPeg (WoR) to empower females within the office, all while continuing to create memorable experiences. Want more? Knowledge of the gaming and esports landscape is a big plus: launched more than 13 major titles over the past three years and brought non-endemic brands including GEICO and AT&T into the space.
Retail is its bread and butter. Multiple events in multiple markets on a single day is its jam, topped off with vendor coordination, permitting, event production, staffing and customer loyalty integration as it collects customer data and insights through real-time interactions. A highlight: festive lounges during Holiday 2018 that rewarded DICK’S Sporting Goods’ biggest spenders with free gift-wrapping, snacks and beverages, plush furniture and more, driving social buzz, content creation and deeper customer loyalty.
For 18 years, has linked brands with fans in sports, entertainment, esports and food, like last year’s fun slow-motion 360-degree dance move video activation during the Big Ten Championship and five-hole “hockey” putt-putt course at the NFL Winter Classic for Discover. Acquired London sports agency Revolution to help international brands tap into American markets and vice-versa. Also boasts new Chicago headquarters, a new cfo, sales team and a new Youth subsidiary.
Completely revamped, with offices on both coasts, in-house creative and female bosses managing all departments, music festival activations for lifestyle and beauty brands are still the center of its universe. Technical capabilities continue to evolve, like the slo-mo gif photo booth for L’Oréal’s NYX brand at Coachella, with a confetti cannon for added movement and effect. And fans lined up to experience Tyler, The Creator’s Grinch-themed song activation for NBC and Illumination at Camp Flog Gnaw festival.
Connects brands with elusive millennial and Gen-Z consumers through campus activities, consumer insights, digital and social and e-commerce. Last year’s HBO “Watch Me Become on Campus” transformed 10,000 college students into “Game of Thrones” and “Sharp Objects” characters, just in time for Halloween, raising awareness for the network and capturing 100-plus hours of shareable content for makeovers and DIY tutorials.
Has consolidated retail, live events and custom fabrication divisions under Set Creative and established a global leadership team for clients in more than 40 countries. Published “The Value of Experience,” a report based on an experiment with a faux non-alcoholic beverage brand (see pg. 10); managed Google’s Cannes Lions beach activation for the ninth year, making it more relevant and memorable; and created a ComfyCush high school experience complete with lockers, classrooms, teachers’ lounge and graffiti wall to launch Vans’ new sneaker technology.
Services a diverse client list, from finance to cosmetics to media, and is looking to increase its presence in CPG. New offerings include a proprietary digital sampling platform designed to augment national field marketing more cost effectively, and a new web-based channel (collectingthedust.com) to showcase the agency’s opinions, approach and sense of humor. Took over Citi’s No-Kid Hungry Taste of the Nation initiative this year with a fresh mix of culinary experiences, VIP moments and fundraising tactics.
Hey don’t take our word for it—here’s what the clients say: “There is no limitation on what they seem to be able to do,” says the Salesforce client. The Anheuser-Busch client calls Sparks “true miracle workers.” And Google says Sparks “continuously makes our events such a huge success.” The Tier 1 global brand experience agency is playing in the major leagues like never before, and there is no agency on this list that doesn’t get nervous when competing with Sparks.
CORE 1:B-to-B Meetings/Events CORE 2:Developer Events CORE 3:Trade Show Programs
An internal rebrand and new positioning ensure the brains behind Bonnaroo, Outside Lands and several other trendsetting festival properties will remain relevant, especially when it comes to experiential IP development and millennial and Gen Z insights. Work this year included a Nike retail space at Chicago’s Shamrock Shuffle 8K, social media for Citi, the Girlboss Rally in L.A. and Revolt TV’s hip-hop summits. Coming soon: new initiatives at the intersection of technology and live experience. We can’t wait to see what’s next.
Founded nearly 40 years ago but just as spry as ever, Switch is not slowing down any time soon. The independent agency’s offerings run the gamut, from a video and motion graphics department to a print studio to a fabrication shop to an extensive inventory of audio, video and lighting equipment. Picked up a new 360-degree camera with VR capabilities in 2018, along with new software that incorporates spatial audio into 360-degree content.
Investments in creative, strategy and production have paid off in award-winning work for Miller Lite, MINI, Sunovion and Havana Club, and more projects are on the way for new clients Mary’s (hemp-derived products), Fair (car subscription app) and Sure Skills (education platform). A highlight: the AMPARO experience, a ticketed, three-month immersive theater event in Miami that told the story of the family that created Havana Club rum during the Cuban revolution in 1957—consumers watched each scene unfold. A sell-out.
Beefed up its team and hired new senior management, resulting in a record year and an even stronger focus on client relations and services. Partnered with NBCUniversal to launch the 2018 “People’s Choice Awards,” bringing the show to a younger demographic via an 11-day promotional tour complete with gourmet food samples and premium giveaways. Also wowed nearly 2,000 attendees at Art Basel Miami with interactive exhibits for LG Electronics, creating more than 145,000 visual impressions in the process.
Boasting over 25 years in the biz, TMA has a command of cultural relevance that engenders cultural resonance for its clients. Added new leadership in 2018 to help the team produce over 10,000 annual events for the likes of AT&T, Frito-Lay and Nissan. Expanded its Neighborhood of Good cause marketing platform to seven music festivals in partnership with 21 nonprofits nationwide, ultimately reaching over 74,000 consumers who completed more than 24,000 “Acts of Good.”
A staff of 300 and 700,000 square feet of fabrication space keep Taylor a force to be reckoned with. Recently expanded its capabilities to include full in-house A/V services and several new hires. An exhibit for Hyundai Motors at CES showcased the brand’s vision for the future of mobility with pods that served as futuristic cockpits, providing imagery of in-car experiences that will be enabled by autonomous vehicles. The tech-forward experience cut through the clutter and drew in 72,000 visitors—20 percent above goal. Nice.
For over a decade, TVG and its in-house fabrication group, White Walls, have handled client activations from soup to nuts. Sonar technology and RFID check-in systems provide clients with actionable data on attendee behavior. Scored a huge win with new client Revolve, taking the reins on the Revolve Festival at Coachella with 21 sponsor activation spaces, 35 custom builds and a massive stage designed for top talent. Built a new department and added strategy and creative staffers in 2018 like it was going out of style.
CORE 1:Buzz/Influencer Programs CORE 2:Launch Events CORE 3:Trade Show Programs
FOCUS SPLIT:90% B-to-C, 10% B-to-B CLIENTS INCLUDE: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, CBS Interactive, CD Projekt Red, Google, Revolve WEB:visionarygroupla.com RFP CONTACT:Brian Diamond, firstname.lastname@example.org
XD evolved from a veteran production company to a full-service agency two years ago and hasn’t looked back since. Broadened its horizons in the b-to-c space in 2018 with consumer-facing events for the likes of LEGO and Adult Swim, and extended its tech business with clients like Cisco. Implemented a proprietary “Promise-Proof” design methodology that strengthens brand-audience relationships by treating brands as people. In fact, it says “empathy” is its core strength.
It was a big year for Team Wass, with the acquisition of a Belgian experiential agency and the opening of its Shanghai office (the agency’s 15th) beefing up global offerings. Earned AOR status with AT&T and Wells Fargo. Leverages a proprietary “UNLOCK” social platform that tracks over 200 global audience variables across 380 social media accounts in real time. Its tried and true philosophy: “We are unwilling to accept the status quo.”
This heavy-hitter has executed campaigns in over 28 countries, and boasts its own research arm and a slate of big-name clients. Experienced organic growth and new business wins in 2018, including a significant partnership with Samsung. Prides itself on owning campaigns from rendering to reality with its suite of in-house services. Produced Instagram’s Storyscape experience at Cannes Lions, recounting the last 40,000 years of storytelling with projection mapping, earning praise from top-level creatives.
This 23-year-old independent shop picked up four new clients and surpassed 100 employees over the last 12 months. Dominates the b-to-b meetings space and leverages insights from its digital strategy team to incorporate new technologies into live experiences. On a dime, created a live broadcast that delivered general session and workshop content to 60 U.S. locations. And fun fact: A client just named their cat after one of its creative directors. Talk about a compliment.
Audience-led and “results obsessed,” Xperience builds narrative-driven events based on its “Listening From Nothing” ethos: Taking a vantage point free from past constraints and being open to impossible ideas. Has a strong history and presence in the automotive space. Focuses on designing moments that matter—not content or venues. Knocked Ford’s 2018 Wanderlust sponsorship out of the park with a multisensory immersion into the brand’s sustainability efforts.
FOCUS SPLIT:60% B-to-C; 40% B-to-B CLIENTS INCLUDE:DTE Energy, Ford Motor Company, James Group International, Lincoln Motor Company, Livio WEB:xperiencecommunications.com RFP CONTACT:Michael Jones, email@example.com