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There were many strong contenders, but Marketing has decided on three companies for its coveted "Of the Year" titles: Sid Lee is Marketing's Agency of the Year, the Canadian Tourism Commission is Marketer of the Year, and CBC was named Media Player of the Year.

"It's never an easy decision, but we feel strongly that these three companies were the best of the best in 2009," said Christopher Loudon, editor-in-chief and executive publisher of Marketing. "The boundary-breaking Sid Lee is changing what it means to be a creative agency," he said. "The CTC's innovative marketing strategy has succeeded in changing perceptions about travel in Canada. And CBC truly shone with hit programs and creative advertising opportunities."

Montreal-based Sid Lee is known for pulling, pushing and simply playing with the industry's traditional definitions of creativity. "In the past 12 months-when many agencies were just trying to staunch the bleeding-Sid Lee produced great work for clients like Adidas, won new business, made a strong move into Europe and continued to redefine what it means to be a creative agency in the 21st century," said Jeromy Lloyd, agency reporter for Marketing.

Among the highlights this year: Sid Lee opened a production company, Jimmy Lee; launched Sid Lee Architecture; acquired a minority stake in a "nutri-cosmetic" company and won new accounts with eight major international brands, including Eurostar, won by its Paris office which opened earlier this year.

As Lloyd wrote in his feature profile in the Dec. 14 issue of Marketing, which is hitting desks today (and will be online later this week): "Though many agencies are trying to work their way deeper into client operations to do more than straightforward advertising, Sid Lee has never been afraid to shun advertising in favour of retail design, product creation or, as it recommended to Tourisme Montreal, drop all traditional advertising to focus on online and social media outreach."

On the marketer front, Vancouver-based CTC, whose agency of record is DDB Canada, embarked on an innovative social media strategy, launched its first integrated global marketing platform and created the "Locals Know" campaign, aimed at getting Canadians to travel within their own country.

"In the past few years, a lot of marketers have experimented with social media and user-generated content in their marketing. But in our opinion, few have done it so well as the CTC," said Rebecca Harris, co-managing editor of Marketing.

"And while the shift away from 'moose, mountains and maple syrup' actually began a few years ago, we felt 2009 was truly the culmination of the CTC's branding efforts for this country," she added. "Their marketing strategy has resulted in a fundamental shift in how travellers from around the world view Canada. The country is no longer seen as a beautiful but boring place: it's fun, exciting, and even a little exotic."

Among media players, CBC stood out for its impressive programming success and new and innovative ways it works with advertisers.

"When it came time to pick Media Player of the Year, the context was very different because so many media players had such a difficult year," said David Brown, co-managing editor at Marketing. "But when we started talking to buyers and media agency leaders about which properties and companies did the best in 2009, CBC was top of their minds."

CBC's programming, which underwent a radical shift about four years ago, continues to be a success with both viewers and advertisers. This year's breakout hit Battle of the Blades regularly drew more than 1.5 millions viewers through the fall. Dragon's Den and The Rick Mercer Report, along with the stalwart Hockey Night in Canada, also attract more than a million pairs of eyeballs to each episode. Dramas Being Erica and Heartland, and sitcom Little Mosque on the Prairie secure smaller buy equally loyal fan bases.

The once-rigid crown corporation is also taking a more creative and collaborative approach to advertising, with several innovative brand integrations. For example, Mediacom worked with CBC at the script development stage to insert TD Canada Trust into episodes of Little Mosque on the Prairie, Being Erica and Heartland.

CBC's business and programming strategy "is based in large part on replacing bashfulness with pride, and in 2009--despite the immense challenges of the evolving media universe and a devastating recession--CBC proved that it was arguably even more relevant than it's ever been to Canadians," wrote Matt Semansky in his profile of the CBC.

The Agency, Marketer and Media Player of the Year are all chosen by Marketing's editorial team. The selection process begins with research and review of our reporting over the last 12 months.

This research is supplemented with submitted nominations forms detailing successes of the agencies, marketers or media players over the last year as well as three roundtable discussions of industry professionals, expert in each area.

Attendees talk candidly and openly about the contenders Marketing is considering for its Top 10 as well as others which to that point may not have been in the running.

Final rounds of discussion and debate amongst the editorial team produce three Top 10 lists and from those Top 10s our ultimate winners.

The Top 10 Agencies were profiled in the Nov. 9 issue while the Top 10 Marketers and Media Players were profiled in the Nov. 23 issue.

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