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What makes an Agency of the Year? Analysing the work of Campaign’s winners

Challenging times call for innovative thinking, and for agencies to go herculean lengths to get their clients noticed. This year’s Campaign Agency of the Year winners have produced audacious work, that has resonated with audiences in the midst of a pandemic.

But what exactly makes a winning Agency of the Year? While talent and culture play a huge role, the work agencies produce for clients is the essence which helps them win awards. We wanted to find out why this year’s winning agencies were crowned the top players in their respective categories. So, we turned to comparison.

We looked specifically at the websites of three winning agencies: VCCP (Integrated Marketing), Gravity Road (Digital innovation) and PHD UK (Media agency). Firstly, we collected the website copy of the “Our Work” sections of each site, which is often a sample of an agency’s best work. Then we uploaded this text data to Relative Insight.

Using Relative Insight’s text analysis platform, we compared this language data against our Standard English model. This helps to ascertain the key characteristics of award-winning work in 2020, showcases how agencies conveyed these case studies, and also what industry newcomers can learn from leaders.

VCCP – Integrated Marketing Agency

VCCP present themselves as the agency for challenger brands, speaking about their work for like-minded clients with ambitious goals.

When describing their work over the past year, VCCP are 81.1x more likely to utilise descriptive language such as inspirational, bold and brave. This emphasises the fact that VCCP want to position themselves as risk-takers. In 2020, they talked a lot about their attention-grabbing work, despite life being far from business-as-usual.


Furthermore, when exploring VCCP’s case studies, it’s clear that the agency has tapped into public sentiment of people needing extra reassurance throughout the pandemic. VCCP use supportive language such as kindness, encouragement and help to depict their work throughout 2020. This emphasises the need to create campaigns that truly help others and spread a positive message in a year of such uncertainty.

Gravity Road – Digital Innovation Agency

During a time when so many of us couldn’t be together, connecting online has been vital to marketing strategy. Winner of Digital Innovation Agency of the Year, Gravity Road, discussed utilising platforms such as TikTok, Instagram and Twitter to reach a wide audience of people and amplify brand voice.

However, it is the various technical elements of Gravity Road’s work which stands out in our comparison against Standard English. Phrases such as augmented reality, face filters, and reality holograms show that Gravity Road employ design-first marketing throughout their digital campaigns to create immersive experiences for consumers.

What’s interesting about this, is the idea that using augmented reality and filters enables audiences to escape the everyday. This concept was reinforced by the agency who were 19.7x more likely to use words such as fun, escape, happy, entertaining when describing their work.

PHD UK – Media agency

When analysing the case studies of PHD UK, we discovered how the media agency places a large focus on collaboration, using words such as partnered, collaborating and partnerships to portray various case studies. While the debate around the future of the traditional agency model continues, it seems increasingly important that agencies explore partnerships and collaborations with other agencies, as well as media owners, to better serve the needs of their clients.

Secondly, our comparison found that PHD UK leveraged empathy throughout their 2020 portfolio of work. When explaining case studies, the agency focused on the pandemic and the notion that 2020 was one of the toughest years ever, requiring a compassionate approach to campaigning. PHD UK spoke about assessing lockdown behaviours to ensure campaigns resonated, showing a desire to understand their client’s consumer base.

2020 was a year unlike any other, however it seems that it has driven inspiration and innovation throughout agency land. Through this comparison, we can see that winning agencies dared to be bold and brave, providing people with a creative escape from reality. However ultimately, a deep understanding of people and the need for connection was a dominant theme throughout their campaigns.

At Relative, we believe that language is the key to understanding who people are, where they come from and what they actually feel. If you’re an agency and you’d like to learn more about your client’s audiences in order to create inspiring, resonating campaigns, get in touch!

Sign up to attend our upcoming webinar event “Are you passing the vibe check? How to talk to Gen Z” – if you can’t make it, register anyway and we’ll send you the recording.

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