The burden of responsibility is heavy, and yet here they are, Marketing's Agencies of the Year, the only comprehensive round-up of the top performers in 11 different communications disciplines.
In all but two categories, the process to get to the right decision has been one of the hardest we have encountered. Were it not for the back-to-back reviews of Persil/Omo and BA's advertising, and the equally unlikely scenario of an English triumph in the Ashes, we might equally have struggled with those two agency choices.
Yes, we went through the same painstaking research as always; yes, we did the usual interrogating, calculating, scrutinising and shouting each other down until we were hoarse; yes, we levelled our ever-healthy dose of journalistic cynicism at every claim of success, every piece of new business won and every turnover figure shown in secret. Still we were left with agencies that could not be separated.
That is, perhaps, how it should be. In an era of cost-driven decision-making it is more difficult to win business, and harder still to prove your agency is superior in terms of creativity, results and value. Wherever an agency's weakness exists, there is, or should be, a rival ready to pounce.
In two of our categories, this year's winner is the same as last - and believe us, staying at the top is twice as hard as getting there. In one category, there is a remarkable story of agency turnaround; no one, not even the agency concerned, would have predicted this time last year that they would be Agency of the Year in 2005. In all other categories, the winners have just edged ahead, often for one aspect of their client offering.
The criteria we use are straightforward: creativity, new business and incremental business, organisational change that drives the agency forward, and, above all, effectiveness.
Solid though it is, we didn't rely solely on our own judgment in making these choices. Marketing speaks to many industry experts over the course of the year, and has gained much from their insight. Our special thanks to: Crispin Manners, The Public Relations Consultants Association; Alex Young, Martin Jones, Peggy Connor, Julie Constable, Juliet Blackburn and Paul Phillips, AAR Group; Suki Thompson, The Haystack Group; The Institute of Public Relations; Deborah Dawton, Design Business Association; Julia Hutchison, Association of Publishing Agencies; Nick Fennell, Archway Management; Penny Bousfield, CM Insight; Ivor Stocker, chairman, BMRA; and Andy Pearch, Billetts.