Creativity By Country: The One Club's Top 10
By Brett McKenzie on Jun 25, 2021
Looking at The One Club Global Creative Rankings' Top 10 countries
The One Show 2021 and the ADC 100th Annual Awards are both in the history books, drawing to a close one of the craziest years many of us around the planet has seen. The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to reimagine the very way we work, whether it was adjusting to working from home to finding solutions for clients whose very existence was threatened by lockdowns. But creativity thrives in adversity, and 2021's winning entries showed what could be accomplished, even in the face of a global crisis.
Adversity also has a habit of uniting people, and we see this each year when we release our Global Creative Rankings, particularly our country rankings. Every entrant — whether they're the biggest agency in town or a solitary freelancer — contributes to the points that each country receives, and when a handful of points separate some countries, rising or falling on the list becomes a team effort.
There are a total of 61 countries that appear on this year's list, with 54 countries winning in The One Show, and 38 countries feted by the ADC Annual Awards. Based on points assigned for eligible Gold, Silver and Bronze Pencils and Cubes, alongside Merit recognition, Best of Disciplines, the Fusion Pencil and Cube, the SDG, Green, and Penta Pencils, the Designism Cube, and both Best of Show honors, here are 2021's top ten ranked countries, including how they fared the year before, as well as a look at what helped get them to the top.
#1. UNITED STATES
LAST YEAR: #1, —
Look, until there is no longer a Madison Avenue running through its biggest city, there is little chance that the United States gets bumped from this number one spot. Birds gotta fly, fish gotta swim, and Americans gotta advertise.
But among the heavy hitters who carry this country to the top of the list year after year, you'll also find some hidden gems among the gold, from agencies, studios and individuals that fly under the radar of the FCBs and McCanns of the world. There's L&C's Gold Pencil-winning poster campaign for Kokopelli Hostel; There's Brooklyn-based design studio CENTER, which won two Gold Cubes and two One Show Merits for its colorful branding and packaging design for United Sodas of America; and there's Dejha Ti and Ania Catherine's experiential trenchcoat created for the Museum of Contemporary Digital Art, which blocks out technology while simultaneously picking up a Gold Cube. And that's only scratching the surface of this American apple pie.
So hooray to the United States for once again taking the top spot. In the quantity versus quality game, you consistently ask "why not both?"
#2. UNITED KINGDOM
LAST YEAR: #5, +3
After dropping in the rankings last year, the United Kingdom is back in the number two spot, thanks in no small part to an agency and client that got the country there in 2019. Coming off of a wheelbarrow full of Pencils and Cubes for "Viva La Vulva" that year, AMV BBDO and Libresse upped the ante for 2021, winning an astonishing 12 Gold Pencils, six Best of Disciplines, and a One Show Best of Show, all for its incredible "#wombpainstories" campaign and its multiple components.
Lest you think that AMV BBDO singlehandedly raised the UK up the ranks, there were plenty of others with amazing work. There's Riff Raff Films' triple-Gold Pencil-winning "Festive" choreography for Burberry; FCB Inferno's "This Girl Can" for Sport England, winning one of two inaugural Fusion Pencils for demonstrating diversity in both the work and in the teams who make it; and OMSE's Gold Cube-worthy rebrand of Hackney Church.
Congratulations to everyone who contributed to the UK's return to #2 on the country ranking list. Let's see if you can hold on to it next year.
LAST YEAR: #2, -1
Germany is moved down a notch this year, but it's not for a lack of amazing work. DDB Group Germany's "The Uncensored Library" for Reporters Without Borders won four Gold Cubes, a Best of Discipline, the Designism Cube, and the ADC Black Cube for Best of Show, not to mention three Gold Pencils and one of only three Sustainable Development Goals Pencils in The One Show. Not to be outdone, BBDO Group Germany won three Gold Cubes and two Gold Pencils for "Eurythenes Plasticus," created for the WWF.
Beyond these two winning projects, Germany still brought home significant gold. Among these winners are fischerAppelt's "Drowned Requiem" for United4Rescue; hesign's beautiful book "Daydream"; and "Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet," which also earned Atelier Brückner an ADC Best of Discipline in Spatial Design.
Yes, It's more of a case of UK dominance than Germany's output that moved Deutschland down the ranks. If history teaches us anything, they'll move up again before you know it.
LAST YEAR: #3, -1
O Canada! Another great year for America's nice neighbors to the north, and one buttressed by past successes; two of the nation's Gold Pencils were for Creative Effectiveness, proving that the amazing "Go Back To Africa" campaign by FCB/SIX for Black & Abroad, and FCB's "Project Understood" for the Canadian Down Syndrome Society were more than just great ideas last year, but ones that moved the needle.
Alongside these gold wins, Toronto's Rethink had people drawing Heinz ketchup, drawing themselves a Gold Pencil in the process, while over in Montreal, Paprika won a Gold Cube for its packaging design for Saga Grand Gin. And of course, Toronto-based designer Ben Johnston won a Gold Cube and Best of Discipline in Typography for his beautiful Kutu/Nest mural created for Start India.
Canadians have a reputation for being apologetically humble, but with four straight years in the Top 5, trust us, you have nothing to be sorey aboot.
LAST YEAR: #6, +1
Speaking of Top 5 finishes, France returns to this hallowed position after dipping to #6 last year. Unlike in previous years, where one or two French agencies dominated the nation's field, the love is spread all around in 2021.
Helping to elevate la République this year is Havas Sports & Entertainment's "Undercover Avatar," a powerful Fortnite-powered message on child abuse and domestic violence for Association L'Enfant Bleu. With a similar goal of raising child abuse awareness, ROSA PARIS wins a Gold Pencil for "Just A Wall," created for Innocence En Danger; and a Gold Cube in Typography was awarded to Benoit Berger for "BTC Cast 1."
We salute the broad field of French winners this year, and hope that 2022's winners will be equally as eclectic — hey, it moved you up the rankings this time, so you might be onto something.
LAST YEAR: #8, +2
This is where the combined rankings of The One Show and the ADC Awards get interesting. China has steadily improved its position on this list ever since it began in 2017, and it now sits in #6. This is primarily on the strength of its agencies, studios, and individual creatives getting caught up in the excitement of ADC's 100th anniversary and finding great success there. In fact, even without China's many One Show accolades this year, the country would still find itself in sixth place.
Among the Gold Cube-winning entries that helped China's elevation this year are LUO Studio's impressive Spatial Design win for the Yuanheguan Village Committee; Nanjing Han Qing Tang Design's limited edition book "Browse Leipzig"; and "Smart-Box," Peng Ren's interactive children's blocks.
Is there a lesson to be learned here? Perhaps it's better to take a look at both shows when entering — you might find success in the eyes of both juries, but for different reasons. As China continues to move up the rankings, it's clearly working for them.
LAST YEAR: #20, +13
Well look who cracked the Top 10 list for the first time ever — and did so with a great showing in both awards! Mind you, much of Netherland's success this year comes from the across-the-board accolades bestowed upon "The Uncensored Library" and MediaMonk's integral role in that project, as well as Sizzer's brilliant audio work on "Francesca" for Diesel, but there are other notable winners that helped raise the Dutch into the Top 10.
Need proof? Take a look at Silo's space-age airport for cyclists, which won a Gold Cube for Spatial Design. Or 72andSunny's "Open Like Never Before," an ode to a post-pandemic life for Coca-Cola, which won a Silver Pencil and a Bronze Cube. Or Studio Roosegaarde's "Grow," a Bronze Cube-winning homage to the beauty of agriculture.
Welcome to the Top 10, Netherlands! We hope you'll stay a while.
LAST YEAR: #4, -4
We find Sweden in our eighth spot in 2021, dropping down from #4. In a way it was to be expected; after INGO's role in last year's "Moldy Whopper" One Show juggernaut, it's hard to make lightning strike twice — although it sort of does, as a thoroughly desiccated Whopper wins two Gold Cubes and a Best of Discipline this year. How? There's an overlap in eligibility days for awards entries, to give entrants a chance to submit work that is released right at the deadline. "Moldy Whopper" was released at the last possible moment to enter last year, but rather than wait until 2021, the teams scrambled to submit it the day it was released while holding off on ADC until this year. Obviously it paid off; without this year's "Moldy Whopper" points, Sweden would barely be in tenth place, with Colombia less than a point behind.
So with the Whopper out of the way, what kept Sweden in the Top 10? First, AKQA wins both a Gold and a Silver Pencil for its work on "H&M Looop," a clothing recycling experience unlike any other. Next, there's the pandemic-perfect "The Isolated Cinema," created by Stendahls for the Goteborg Film Festival and winning a Gold and Bronze Pencil. And finally, Sweden's third Gold — and an additional Bronze Pencil — was awarded to Åkestam Holst NoA for "Call Girls," a campaign for Talita, an anti-sex trafficking organization.
So even with the Burger King bonanza behind them, Sweden continues to grill up fantastic work that keeps them high on our list.
#9. UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
LAST YEAR: #16, +7
Okay, remember when earlier on this list we chalked up China's unprecedented success to its careful balance of work that both wows the One Show judges, as well as the design sensibilities of the ADC jury? Here we have an example of the opposite. The United Arab Emirates finished a respectable 16th in 2020, with the large majority of its points coming from its wins in the ADC 99th Annual Awards. A year and a pandemic later, the UAE cracks the Top 10 for the very first time... without so much as a Merit in ADC's centennial year.
So where did the UAE get its points in order to finally crack the Top 10? First of all, there was Impact BBDO's society-changing "New National Anthem Edition" of An-Nahar, a leading newspaper in Beirut. This campaign earned Impact a Gold Pencil and a Best of Discipline in Print. Also winning Gold in Print was "Mothers Smile Strong," a magazine campaign for Colgate created by VMLY&R, while a third Gold Pencil went to FP7 McCann for "Astronomical Sales," created for Mastercard.
So what's this particular lesson? Sometimes it pays to put all of your eggs in one basket.
LAST YEAR: #14, +4
After a year's absence, the Land Down Under finds itself squeezing back into the Top 10! Now Australia's success in the ADC Annual Awards has been spotty at best, with its only notable year in the era of combined rankings being 2018. That said, their big wins in The One Show were just enough to move them up the list again.
2021's standouts include Saatchi & Saatchi's thought-provoking "Donation Dollar" for the Royal Australian Mint, which won two Gold Pencils and a coveted Best of Discipline in Direct Marketing. Clemenger BBDO took home Australia's only other Gold Pencil for "Pitvertising," created for Rexona.
Can Australia remain in the Top 10 with only the power of its Pencils? Only time will tell, but scoring a few Cubes wouldn't hurt in securing a hard-earned spot.
While 2021 welcomed Australia back to the Top 10 list and said hello to the Netherlands and the UAE for the very first time, their three spots meant that three other countries fell out of the upper rankings — totally understandable in the topsiest of turvy years for many of us. Japan and Brazil, last year's #9 and #10 countries, both fell three spots to #12 and #13 respectively.
Even though they didn't make the Top 10 this year, both Japan and Brazil still showed the world some amazing creations. Japan won seven ADC Cubes and three One Show Pencils, including two Gold Cubes for Dentsu; one in Packaging Design for Menicon's "Beautiful Days," and the other in Photography for Toyota's "Born From WRC GR Yaris." Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Brazil won 12 One Show Pencils, and Rio de Janeiro-based LightFarm Studios shared in the glory of McCann Health New York's Best of Discipline win for "The Unfinished Votes," created for Change The Ref.
We applaud Japan and Brazil's entries, and have no doubt that you'll return to a spot on the Top 10 list before too long!
Oh, and the third country to leave the Top 10 list? That would be Romania, which fell from #7 down to #26. As you may well remember, Publicis Bucharest was one of the agencies behind "The Moldy Whopper," and they still win two Gold Cubes and a Best of Discipline with it this year. The lone non-Burger King entry to make the scoreboard? MRM Romania, McCann Bucharest, and UM Bucharest for "The Candidate," a campaign for ROM Chocolate to encourage people to get involved in the presidential election.
Ah, but Romania knows that taste of victory is sweeter than any chocolate bar (or rotted hamburger, for that matter) and we just know that they'll be rising up the ranks again in the years to come!