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It’s that time again, when we look back at the agencies, the brands, the organizations, movements and trends that have shaped the past year. In 2020 – a year so many of us would like to forget – our industry of problem solvers proved time and again that they have what it takes to muck in, help out, ask questions, shape cultures and change the world. It is them that we celebrate in our New Year Honors.

Among the agencies fighting adland’s corner and making the case for advertising creative in the midst of a pandemic-induced recession, IPG-owned and Virginia-based The Martin Agency stood out.

The agency signed a big client at the beginning of the year in the form of retailer Old Navy, but soon found the campaign it had won the account on the back of canceled in the choppy wake of Covid-19.

In response, Martin switched to promote Old Navy’s charitable efforts (the brand donated $30m worth of apparel). It commissioned a local artist to fashion a fabric sculpture from old Old Navy product so large that it would have made Neil Buchanan jealous. In the end, artist Noah Scalin utilized 1,000 pieces of Old Navy clothing to exhibit a portrait of an American family; the assembly of the piece formed the core of a time-lapse video. From beginning to end, the project took just six weeks.

It wasn’t the only new partner that signed with Martin, as the agency also snapped up deodorant brand Axe. And amid the economic chaos of the pandemic, Martin did alright for itself, posting 30% net growth in new revenue.

And it wasn’t the only unconventional ad produced by the agency this year. A thanksgiving campaign for Ritz Crackers highlighted a non-binary queer couple in a spot that explored different kinds of families. The cracker brand donated $50,000 to the It Gets Better Project, an LGBTQ+ charity. 

The agency has credited its success to internal changes in recent years. Its leadership is now composed of 50% women and 25% people of color.

More than financial results, though, is the pull of its reputation – people want to work at Martin. And nowhere was that better demonstrated than in a fun Twitter trivia thread the agency ran in October for would-be job seekers. Prizes for players included a one-on-one portfolio review, a meeting with chief executive office Kristen Cavallo or a guaranteed interview. 

The stunt saw the agency, which was aiming to fill 45 positions, net 1,200 applications. Never mind profit margins; praise doesn’t come any higher.

We’ll be celebrating all our favorite things about 2020 on thedrum.com into early January. Keep an eye on our New Year Honors hub to read more.