AKQA is a widely admired digital agency with a broad international presence. It captured a succession of Agency of the Year accolades on both sides of the Atlantic for much of the 2000s, and was was one of the last major privately owned shops in its sector until acquired by WPP for around $540m. The agency has maintained a much lower profile ever since, certainly by comparison with such peers as R/GA or Huge. AKQA offers a full range of services including web design, strategic consultancy, online advertising and media and new mobile platforms. The shop is especially noted for its design skills, and is regarded as one of the top two or three agencies worldwide for digital creativity. As a result it has also expanded successfully into industrial and interior design. AKQA describes it as "the imaginative application of art and science". Among other strengths, it was for several years one of the busiest designers of software apps for Apple's iPhone and iPad on behalf of multiple clients. Increasingly these were not so much marketing projects, but mainstream digital design and publishing jobs. The agency was founded in London in 1995 by Ajaz Ahmed - AKQA are the initials of his full name - but effectively transferred its HQ to the US in 2001 after a private equity-funded merger with three American agencies. WPP acquired majority control of the business in 2012. AKQA's global footprint has expanded significantly since then. By mid 2021 there were 32 offices in 18 countries, including three specialised London-based units: Potato (offering digital engineering & technology services), Map (industrial design) and Universal (interior design). AdAge estimated global revenues of $275m in 2020. Ajaz Ahmed remains CEO. In Nov 2020, WPP announced the merger of its under-performing Grey advertising network into a newly enlarged AKQA Group, which will continue to be led by Ahmed. Initial plans to begin phasing out the Grey brand were abandoned following an angry push back from that agency's clients.
Capsule checked 21st June 2021
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Historical profile information for AKQA
Adbrands Daily Update 27th Jul 2021: "Discord The Movie". If you didn't already know about social media app/online world Discord, it's unlikely that AKQA's spectacular film will help you make too much sense of it. But it certainly looks amazing, with virtually every sort of digital wizardry thrown into the pot, plus Danny De Vito and Awkwafina as your guides. So best just to sit back and enjoy the ride without asking too many questions... We'd guess the high-profile push will also help bump up Discord's notional valuation. Microsoft was recently considering a deal at $10bn, and that price is almost certainly going up not down. (Until the next hot new online sensation comes along, anyway...)
Adbrands Daily Update 11th Nov 2020: The latest consolidation of WPP agencies won't be too much of a surprise to many. Struggling with weak performance for the past year or so, the global Grey network is to be merged into digital agency AKQA, under the control of the latter's founder and CEO Ajaz Ahmed. Grey CEO Michael Houston becomes president & COO of the newly enlarged AKQA Group. Grey is expected to retain its name for the time being at least. "Nothing disappears on day one," says WPP CEO Mark Read said. "But, over time, we'll bring the companies closer together." According to the official release, the two brands "will be integrated over time into a single company based on client and market needs. The management team and creative leadership will be announced in the coming weeks, comprising leaders from AKQA and Grey." Updated: Plans to eliminate the Grey name altogether, in the medium term or even perhaps long term, have been blocked by key client Procter & Gamble. A P&G spokesperson confirmed to Ad Age that their top marketer Marc Pritchard had been "upset" by media reports that the Grey name would be "going away. He was told that this is not the case and that Grey 'will remain intact' and the Grey name is not going away."
Adbrands Daily Update 20th Jun 2019: Only three days in, and Nike collected its fourth grand Prix of the 2019 Cannes Lions with a clever Media campaign in Brazil, coordinated by AKQA and Wieden & Kennedy. AKQA got local graffiti artists to spraypaint an exclusive custom-designed pair of Nike Air Max trainers onto their work in different areas of Sao Paulo. Nike then told customers they could order the limited edition shoes via their app, but only from the location of the graffiti. A GPS signal from their smartphones confirmed their positions and opened a special ordering page in the app. AKQA collected a second Grand Prix in Entertainment for Music with a short film to promote the album 'Bluesman' by Brazilian rapper Baco Exu do Blues.
Adbrands Social Media 23rd Apr 2019: "See It In Prizm". Luxottica's Oakley brand unveiled a spectacular new promo, created by the Paris outpost of AKQA. The brand has assembled a team of mostly lower-level but still highly accomplished athlete ambassadors. The best known, in the US especially, are probably the New York Yankees' Aaron Judge and Kansas City Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes II. But there's strong support from, among others, skydiver and stuntman Mike Escamilia, MotoGP's Valentino Rossi, and skateboarding champion Ryan Sheckler. Isn't it great what you can achieve with the right pair of shades! (Our own criticism: the final film is more than a little male-dominated).
Adbrands Weekly Update 14th Jun 2018: Admired digital agency AKQA, a unit of WPP, took steps to widen its offering still further with the acquisition of majority holdings in two companies based in London, the architecture and interior design practice Universal Design Studio and industrial design consultancy Map Project Office. Both businesses were launched and run by Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby, who will remain on their respective boards.
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