This alphabet soup-named agency helps get clients on the gravy train. AKQA, an independent Web design and interactive marketing agency, offers online and digital media development and consulting for branding, marketing, e-commerce, and interactive technology. Its roster of enviable clients -- which includes big names such as Nike, Coca-Cola, and McDonald's -- makes it one of the most successful independent agencies in the world. AKQA has offices in Amsterdam, Berlin, London, New York, San Francisco, Shanghai, and Washington, DC. It was founded in 1995 by Ajaz Khowaj Quoram Ahmed (his initials make up the company's name). Private equity firm General Atlantic owns a majority stake in the agency.
AKQA is making a name for itself with its successful mobile apps. In 2011 it won industry awards for its Heineken Star Player app, a game that allowed UEFA Champions League fans to interact in real time and predict when goals would be scored. The previous year its Volkswagen GTi app enabled people to test-drive the car virtually for a chance of winning a special-edition model. The app became the number-one download in 36 countries.
The agency sold a majority stake to General Atlantic in 2007 for $250 million. AKQA continues to opt away from becoming part of a huge conglomerate. Powerhouse advertising empire WPP was among its earlier suitors, and in 2010 Dentsu America, the US branch of the Japanese ad giant Dentsu, bid for the company. That deal fell through after the reported asking price of between $550 million and $600 million was deemed to high for Dentsu. – less