AKQA is a digital agency that specializes in creating digital services and products. It employs 2,000 staff globally.
AKQA has offices in Europe (Amsterdam, Berlin, Gothenburg, London, Paris), North America (Atlanta, New York, Portland, San Francisco, Washington, D.C.), South America (São Paulo) and Asia (Gurgaon, Shanghai, Tokyo).
AKQA was founded in 1994 in London by Ajaz Ahmed and James Hilton. In 2001, the company became AKQA Holdings Inc. after an investment of $70 million by Francisco Partners and Accenture, with San Francisco as its new headquarters and four offices in the UK, US and Asia. In the same year, Nike Run London, a new branded sports format with 10,000 runners taking part was launched by AKQA for Nike. A year later, in 2002, Run London sold over 20,000 places in a few hours using an e-commerce platform designed by AKQA.
In 2003, AKQA created ideashappen.com in collaboration with Visa USA and MSN. The platform asked people to submit entrepreneurial and community-based ideas. During its first month, the campaign attracted one million visitors. The agency also launched Nike Presto online with a collective of post-graffiti artists, where users could interact with art, sound and hidden animation.
In 2004, the New York office opened to increase access to East Coast clients and talent. AKQA also published AKQA Ideas: Volume 1, showcasing the agency’s work within 100 pages. The book sold out on Amazon, with proceeds for the sale donated to the NSPCC and Prince’s Trust charities.
In 2005, AKQA Interface Design Practice helped Microsoft create the new user experience for the Xbox 360 gaming console.
AKQA Mobile was launched as a specialist division in 2006. In the same year, AKQA created the annual student competition Future Lions in collaboration with the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival. This yearly competition has since challenged students to "connect an audience to a product or service from a global brand in a way that wasn't possible five years ago."
On its website, Francisco Partners reported selling AKQA to General Atlantic in 2006 (although some news reports listed this as 2007), terms not disclosed but the transaction was brokered by Morgan Stanley. In 2007, AKQA opened new offices in Amsterdam and Shanghai. The agency also acquired SearchRev and turned it into a dedicated search engine marketing practice. Revenue grew by 45%. Fiat eco:Drive launched at the Paris Motor Show: an in-car app that helps drivers reduce their CO2 emissions and fuel consumption.
AKQA was named on the AdAge Digital A-List in 2008. Work highlighted included the Coca-Cola "Happiness Factory" digital experience, the Halo "Believe" launch campaign, McDonald’s alternative reality game "The Lost Ring" and products such as the Nike Route Finder. Later that year, AKQA’s Christmas card – starring a chorus of harmonic microwaves – was a notable viral success and featured on more than 400 blogs. The following year, AKQA was named in the AdAge Book of Tens as one of the outstanding agencies of the decade, and won the Cannes Lions Cyber Grand Prix for Fiat eco:Drive in June 2009. Other notable work included the alternate reality game for Warner Bros 221b, the spoof film Alpine Legend for Xbox, and the campaign "Born to Run" for Save the Children.
In 2010, AKQA created key branded iPhone apps launching that year: Gap Style Mixer, Nike True City, Nigella Quick Collection, and VW Real Racing GTI. The agency also opened a third European office in Berlin. A year later in 2011, Nike Training Club, one of the world's most downloaded training apps developed by AKQA, wins awards worldwide. In the same year, the dual screening game Heineken Star Player that AKQA created swept the board of global awards. These award wins resulted in AKQA being cited "most awarded digital agency" in 2011 by the Gunn Report,.
In January 2012, AKQA opened a fourth European office in Paris, with Nike as founding client. Velocity was published, co-authored by AKQA founder and CEO Ajaz Ahmed, and Nike VP Digital Sport Stefan Olander, with a foreword by Sir Richard Branson. In June, AKQA joined WPP plc as an independent subsidiary within the world’s largest communications group. At the time it was reported that General Atlantic owned 80% and management 20%, although other published reports say General Atlantic "and other shareholders" owned 80%. Later that year, AKQA opened two new US offices in Atlanta, Georgia and Portland, Oregon, followed by an eleventh office in Tokyo, Japan.
In 2014, AKQA opened offices in São Paulo, Brazil and Gurgaon, India. In 2015, AKQA acquired Italian digital agency, H-ART, and later that year opened its first Scandinavian office in Gothenburg. In March 2016, AKQA took a major stake in software engineering and web development specialist Potato. In August that year, the agency launched AKQA Casa, the new building of their São Paulo office.
AKQA was among the top three of the best 25 companies to work for in Glassdoor's UK company review for 2016. The company also won the Internet Advertising Bureau UK's Agency of the Year 2016 title and was named Agency of the Year at the PromaxBDA Game Marketing Awards 2016 for its work across Activision, Bethesda Softworks, and Ubisoft.
Nike Rise House of Mamba, the basketball initiative AKQA created for Nike China, was featured in the 2015 Gunn Report, ranking first in both Asia's most awarded integrated/titanium work in 2015 and most awarded digital ads in 2015. In addition, the project was included in the top 10 campaigns of 2015 across all Gunn Report media. In 2015, AKQA was also named the most respected agency within Econsultancy’s annual report for the third year in a row – as voted for by other agencies entering in the Top 100. In 2014, AKQA won Queen's Award for Enterprise: Innovation, and was named Most Innovative Agency at 2014 Digiday Awards. 2013 was the agency's most successful year at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity to date. It won 14 Lions including a gold Cyber Lion for Nike+ Kinect Training and a Titanium and Integrated Lion for Nike "Find your greatness".
In 2011, AKQA was named Digital Agency of the Year by Adweek and Campaign magazines. Combining the results of all the significant advertising industry awards, the Gunn Report rated AKQA the top digitally-led agency of 2011. New Media Age also named AKQA the "most respected agency" as voted by industry peers.
In 2010, AKQA took home Agency of the Year for the second year running at the Revolution Awards, and Agency of the Year awards from New Media Age and the Interactive Advertising Bureau. In 2009, AKQA won five separate Agency of the Year awards.
AKQA has previously been named Revolution’s Agency of the Decade (1997 to 2007). In 2006 Creativity magazine gave AKQA its inaugural Interactive Agency of the Year award, recognising the agency's "global culture, creative hires and technological muscle." Creativity editor Teressa Iezzi said: "We thought AKQA embodied the spirit of the big-idea-first approach."