1. Grey New York
Grey built up a cost-efficient in-house production department that helped it win business from brands such as BMW, DirecTV, and the NFL. While ad spending industrywide plummeted 11%, Grey's operating profits were up 44% due to the once staid agency's newfound DIY scrappiness. Top 50 No. 24
Interactive walls, font generators, and visually controlled animation are just a few of the open-source development breakthroughs this geek shop created while crafting the digital identities of brands such as JetBlue, Pepsi's SoBe, and Wrigley. Top 50 No. 33
3. Crispin Porter + Bogusky
The Miami-Boulder shop's perennial irreverence continues to triumph with its Burger King "Whopper Sacrifice" Facebook coup, Alec Baldwin's "Huluwood" campaign, and Best Buy's Twitter Twelpforce. However, its biggest turnaround has been pushing new client Gap back into relevance: Gap's first TV campaign in two years helped boost store sales 1% (after a 12% decrease in 2008), and Old Navy's eerie "Supermodelquin" campaign contributed to a 7% sales increase for the label. Innovation All-stars
The packaged-goods giant pioneered the "reverse upfront," pushing media companies to develop content-centric, digitally ambidextrous media plans for its $500 million in advertising spending rather than just scheduling its commercials around network shows. The company also challenged TV networks to find new ways to reach customers, leading to innovations such as Leftovers, a mobile recipe toolkit created for Hellman's by the Food Network.
Proving once again that digital interaction can be as powerful as a logo, the tech agency pulled off a slew of interactive feats--from Nokia's mobile social geotagging viNe tool to voice-activated digital billboards in Times Square for Verizon's Droid launch.
6. Goodby, Silverstein & Partners
The San Francisco shop topped 2009 industry awards for everything from its Comcast "Rabbit" spot to its data-hungry widget for Sprint. It lost the Hyundai account (10% of the agency's revenue), but it managed to win seven new clients, including eBay and Yahoo.
7. Mr Youth
Not just another word-of-mouth marketing agency, this startup--which has snared clients such as Microsoft, Pepsi, and Johnson & Johnson--is really a tech company. Its proprietary crowdsourcing platform, RepNation, helped lure private-equity funding. Profits grew 38% last year.
This firm restructured itself to be more about creative content than time slots. It helped develop the Web series "In the Motherhood" for Sprint and Suave, "Plum Card" for American Express, and "The Rookie" for Degree. Plus it became the first agency to ditch administrative fees.
Twitter king Ashton Kutcher deployed his production company to promote such brands as Pepsi, Nestlé, and Kellogg, using social media, video, and, of course, celebrity.
This regional New Orleans ad agency continues to craftily reinvent itself post-Katrina by becoming a startup incubator. In the past year, it raised $3 million to fund early-stage companies and launched the healthy franchise concept Naked Pizza, subsequently attracting investment from billionaire Mark Cuban.