It’s the New Year, which means it is time to dish out The Drum’s New Year’s Honours. So, which marketing services agencies have grabbed The Drum editorial team’s attention over the last gruelling 12 months?
THE NORTH WEST
This Liverpool agency has perhaps become as well known for promoting the industry itself as much as for its own talents thanks to its exhaustive work co-organising the Liverpool Design Symposium. But its eye-catching wins and attention-grabbing work in 2009 made Uniform the standout design agency in the north west and national recognition soon followed as it was named Design Team of the Year at October’s Roses Design Awards. Designing Liverpool’s presence at next year’s prestigious World Expo in Shanghai was the pinnacle of its new business wins and is as impressive a project as any design brief picked up by regional agencies in the last 12 months.
Perhaps because it is free of the agendas and interagency politics that befuddle rival networked agencies, fiercely-independent Manchester agency BJL went about its work in 2009 with a confidence incongruous with an industry struggling to cope with the worst recession in memory. In a year when many agencies’ mantra seemed to be “let’s keep our heads down“, BJL assuredly unveiled its first work for high-profile new clients including Rustlers, Typhoo and Qhotels. It coped with the loss of Bradford and Bingley by having a hand in its rebranding as part of the Santander group and saw the year out by winning the Netflights.com account after a four-way pitch. Although always keen to promote itself as fully integrated, BJL affirmed its commitment to advertising by promising to host an exhibition showcasing ‘Art in Advertising’ at The Lowry in Salford next year. Its success is in no small part down to the experience of Billy Mawhinney, who continues to helm the agency’s creative team, and his decision to promote Tom Richards and Pete Bastiman to co-creative directors in April appears to have been a shrewd move as they look primed for inheritance. Confirming BJL’s good year, it beat Thinking Juice (honoured in our South West categories) to win ad agency of the year at the inaugural Marketing Industry Network awards in November.
Reading Room’s year started with worthy, but hardly blockbusting wins with the likes of Keep Britain Tidy, The People’s History Museum and environmental regeneration charity Groundwork. The Manchester agency looked to be having a steady but unspectacular 2009 until August, when it invited The Drum to pop in for a coffee and meet the newest arrival to its team. That man was Paul O’Donoghue, previously group director of digital for the Bell Pottinger Group, who told us of his remarkable plans to assemble a new division at the agency – The Distillery, offering “digital performance solutions” – which he promised would be as strong as any rival agency in the region. After securing a talented team headed by the likes of ex-Code and McCann digital creative director Wes Hogg and Matt Butterworth, the former MD of Folk in London, it’d be unreasonable to say O’Donoghue hasn’t been true to his word. The real test for The Distillery, and how it will actually knit into Reading Room’s existing business, will emerge this year.
Although not nearly now as brash as the polarising Brazen which launched in 2001, Nina Webb’s maturing public relations agency continues to grab the headlines as the decade comes to a close. The agency made some big, grown-up decisions last year, chief among them allowing associate group director Rick Guttridge, who ran the agency in 2007 while Webb was on maternity leave, to exit the business – “on good terms” – five years after his arrival from Connectpoint. But although it has lost an assured operator and steady pair of hands, Brazen has lost none of its appetite for exciting new business: Vimto, Dr Oetker and Hasbro all came to the agency for a PR push last year. Less gimmicky than the Brazen of yore, but never dull, the agency easily ranks among the region’s best and its innovation in 2009 – including relaunching its website to feature a surprisingly prescient news agenda highlighting upcoming big stories – makes it one of the most enduring agencies on our patch.
In 2009 The Refinery, long considered a promising shop, really displayed the extent of its vast talents. The Manchester agency was selected to carry out a strategic review of the Dulux Trade brand; it transformed the in-store marketing of ICI Paints AkzoNobel’s in-store gloss range; created a new website for Magnet Trade; was appointed to produce two catalogues for UNICEF UK; and continued its heavy-involvement in the Co-Operative’s massive £multi-million brand campaign with press and radio work. The only blot on its copybook was the departure of its highly-respected deputy creative director Simon ‘Bertie’ Broadbent, who left to become creative director of The Foundry in November. But even this couldn’t overshadow the agency’s fantastic year of insatiable new wins and clever, multi-disciplinary work.
THE SOUTH WEST
Thinking Juice had a phenomenal year judging by awards: it was MIN’s South West company of the year and the DBA Creative Company of the Year 2009. Work wise, it created the first advertising campaign for the Tank Museum in Dorset, starring James May clearly in his element, before going onto work with former NBA star
Hakeem ‘The Dream’ Olajuwon who played for Houston Rockets. For this it was tasked to create the corporate identity, clothing brands, packaging design, web design and brand strategy for one of the now serial entrepreneurs brands. While it was chosen as the UK agency to join the AMIN Worldwide agency network and also designing the website for the Fantasy Football League of Saudi Arabia, Thinking Juice will no doubt see its finest hour as landing the Euronics Brief which led to a £1.5million ad campaign being released before Christmas.
It’s a rare creative that doesn’t appreciate the work that Bristol-based Taxi Studio produces and last year did not see the agency wander off course having most recently brought in Gareth Beeson as design director. Beeson joined the agency at the same time as newly appointed midweight designer Zoe Reeves from Design Activity. In terms of work, the agency was behind the most recent edition of British Design 2010 from Dutch Publishers BIS, showcasing the best work from the rest of the UK design industry. The agency was recognised at the Cream Awards with Golds for its work for Willie’s World Class Cacao and Tesco Plus in the Art Direction and Packaging categories respectively.
Part of the recently restructured and rebranded Digital Marketing Group – now 20:20 Network following the acquisition of 20:20 London in December – Hyperlaunch is the pure play digital marketing division of the group working alongside its sister agencies InboxDMG, GraphicoDMG, CyberDMG and CheezeDMG. Over the year, the agency picked up work with new clients such as Sea France, Oxfam, Fitness First, Autoglass and the History Channel while handling a vast amount of entertainment projects including the launch of Eddie Izzard’s new DVD, and digital promotional work for movies Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and Shorts. In the music field, the agency was proud to become the first to create an external website for the Glastonbury festival while it also produced online PR and digital campaigns for Calvin Harris, Taio Cruz, JLS, Chipmunk and Florence and the Machine.
Having been awarded the Consultancy Management Standard by The Public Relations Consultants Association late on in the year, the agency has celebrated its 18th year with the launch of Corixa Plus, a business which targeted the over 55 consumer market. The division launched with clients such as Girlings Retirement Options, Wentworth Jigsaws and Bovis Retirement Living already on board. The agency also worked to promote fudge specialist Burnt Sugar and has been working with Bristol Media to deliver workshops to the communications industry in the region. Liz Anderson, who recently joined the board of Bristol Media, departed as managing director for Corixa which meant that founder and chairman of the agency, Helen Marsden, has taken on her responsibilities alongside senior members of the account team.
McCann Erickson Communications House
McCann Erickson Communication House in Birmingham has continued to thrive as an industry leader for the marketing in the regions. Despite the hit it took from the disintegration of MFI, the agency has continued to lead the way, especially in winning the UK advertising account for General Motors, easily the biggest account to reach the regions in some time. Staying on the road, the agency designed the UK and
US catalogue for longstanding client Harley Davidson, the classic motorcycle brand. There has been some big moves made in its hallways as well, most recently with
Kevin Murphy joining in December as managing director from Mindshare and, in one of the most complicated stories of the year, Gary Setchell rejoined the agency as creative director from KLM, where he was replaced by Paul Baker, his former mentor in his previous stint at McCann’s Birmingham. On the creative front, the agency also announced the arrival of Steve Henry in a part-time mentoring role. If the agency has half as much going on in 2010, it should be yet another busy year for Dean Lovett and his team.
The design company, with offices in both London and Leicestershire, has had a year of truly diverse design projects having created the store concept for Romanian Pharmacy chain Sensiblu, designed the National Lottery’s Playstation and an exhibition of Converse trainers in Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport. The agency has also designed the Parisian Levi’s Women store and the Sony Playstation Gran Turismo Gaming Pod. The agency will also no doubt have been pleased to have achieved that rare feat at this year’s Cream Awards, where it swept the Environmental/3D Design category with a Gold for the Sony Playstation Driving Simulator Pod, and landed silvers for its Converse 1 Hundred and Timberland Westfield work.
Birmingham-based digital design studio Clusta has been at the cutting edge of the industry for over ten years now, constantly pushing creative boundaries. And the past 12 months have been no exception. A small cross-section of work from recent months – new websites for Cheryl Cole and The Saturdays for client Polydor; digital work for Cadbury’s brands Wispa and Crunchie; refreshing the CoolBrands identity; creating an internal social networking site for Barclays – shows that Clusta maintains an exciting raft of clients that any agency would drool over. Clusta has staffed up its London office and its Birmingham HQ with a host of senior figures (don’t forget its Los Angeles office too) and the agency has worked hard to promote the local industry through projects like B-Hive and Sample Exhibition. B-Hive saw creative and marketing companies in Birmingham join forces to help students get a foot on the career ladder. Agencies, including Clusta, backed the scheme which awards paid work placements to students and graduates from Birmingham, while Sample – hosted by Clusta – saw a new exhibition launched in Birmingham to promote the design work going on in the West Midlands. Promoting its cutting edge thinking, this year Clusta also partnered with outdoor ad firm CBS Outdoor to develop a revolutionary iPhone-enabled platform for the media owner’s digital LCD screens, allowing viewers to interact with the digital billboard.
The Birmingham PR agency has had a busy year servicing its already lengthy client list, but that was expanded in 2009 with its early appointment by the Home and Communities Agency in the Yorkshire and Humber region to cover three of its nine Government regions. At the same time the agency was also brought in by pub and restaurant chain Mitchells & Butlers, which made the appointment after Willoughby handled the launch of the Crown Carveries brand which saw more than 100 outlets rebranded from Pub & Carvery to Crown Carveries in 2008. The agency is also handling a media relations campaign for the launch of York’s visitor information centre, the on-going PR contract for the conference and events business at Loughborough University and will also promote the East Midland’s Transport Innovation Network over a seven month period. While also now working with Kitchen’s Direct, the agency is likely to admit that its highlight of the year was its work for Warwick Castle, which saw Willoughby gain international coverage by placing Christmas at the castle on Ebay. As a result, the agency has now been tasked to handle its trade and wedding PR.
Like a Brazen for the advertising industry, so much of what is said about Propaganda is not about its work but the way it goes about its business. The Leeds agency very publicly lost the Greggs account to Gratterpalm at the beginning of December after the client had earlier claimed it had no plans to review. And it evoked the spirit of bygone battles after creating a campaign for new hair styling brand Cloud Nine – an apparition of its acrimonious split from ghd in 2007. Yet, as Propaganda’s haunting animation for the Sophie Foundation proved, the agency’s work can be exceptional: it remains one of the few pieces of creative on The Drum’s website which has received almost unanimously approving comments from our hard to please anonymous audience. And the agency’s new business pull remains strong as Habitat, Boost Drinks and Wensleydale appointments prove. Its own Illamasqua make up brand has been a runaway success and is fast becoming one of the agency’s biggest accounts, which begs a question: will it eventually outgrow its parent company? The drama looks certain to continue at Propaganda in 2010.
Uber’s bread and butter account, its ongoing advertising work with DFS, remains one of its best-known clients and biggest earners – but the Sheffield agency is no one trick pony. In 2009 it was involved in design work for the BAFTAs, marketing for SEGA games and branding with Foo-Go. It launched a new website for Leeds University and worked with Screen Yorkshire to promote its own region as a go-to destination for film crews worldwide. Perhaps the best endorsement of its talents came towards the end of the year, when it was appointed by the electronics giant Casio to handle a range of campaigns for TV, press and digital. The best of them saw Uber promote Casio’s partnership with the big Christmas blockbuster film Avatar.
Although trumped to the agency of the year prize by Leeds rival Fuse8 at the DADI Awards in November, Principles group agency MadeByPi still took home the
Grand Prix that night for its work with First Direct and its performance throughout the year, and since the ceremony, merits recognition. The agency has created numerous websites and games for CBBC and ASDA and its ongoing relationship with Sony Music continued as the agency launched the X Factor winner’s website straight after the show finished for the second year running.
The Lowd&Klea group should be recognised for stepping out of its bubble in 2009, and daring to do something different. While steady business at home has seen it work with the likes of Bradford’s Development Lab, the Northern School of Contemporary Dance, the dance group Utah Saints and Yorkshire Forward, it is the agency’s willingness to try something new in a year when many rivals have consolidated which we find admirable. With its business split into two, L&K Brand Communications continues to handle the day-to-day stuff, while L&K Creative brings together an in-house creative team with global collaborative partners including GHAVA in New York and Ian Anderson (The Designers Republic), in the UK, combining concept creative, graphic design, motion and audio-visual disciplines. Expect to hear much more about these collaborations this year.
This Leeds-based PR agency was founded just over three and a half years ago by managing director Jo Swann, a former Yorkshire Post journalist and exmedia officer for the North for the NSPCC. She has since built a tasty-looking client list that would be the envy of many more-established rivals in Yorkshire.
THE NORTH EAST
There is no shortage of competition in the North East when it comes to advertising agencies: the likes of Robson Brown, Guerrilla and last year’s winner of this accolade Drummond Central continue to compete locally and nationally for ad accounts. But Newcastle’s Different has moved like a juggernaut over the last 12 months, sweeping up a wealth of local business while never appearing parochial. Its work in the North East saw it secure a three-year contract with the University of Sunderland and handle a hygiene campaign for the NHS. But perhaps best exemplifying how the agency is thought of in the region is its appointment by One North East to create a £1.4m campaign to promote the North East as a visitor destination, which rolled out on TV across the UK at the beginning of the year. Its work outside its own patch is even more impressive: it created posters and press ads for the launch of Cardiff’s £675m St David’s shopping centre; and it was behind a campaign to promote clothing brand Berghaus’s autumn/winter range across EMEA markets.
Working away quietly in its base near the city centre of Newcastle, this talented design studio perhaps deserves more acclaim that it receives. Last year the agency designed the website for contemporary arts centre Baltic in Gateshead which received praise. The agency has also created the identity for The Lubetkin Theatre which will be centred within the new £36m East Durham College in Peterlee and was once again behind the collateral for this year’s Design Event in the region. Working alongside digital agency Isimo, which was also the digital partner for the Baltic site, Blue River has also worked with the agency on the site for furniture and interior design brand Deadgood.
Based in an eighteenth century windmill on the outskirts of Newcastle, the agency which promises to deliver “clever web stuff” did not disappoint in 2009, producing consistently excellent work for a wide range of clients as the company doubled in size. It created a website for French movie channel Cinemoi in just six weeks; invited racing fans to see live behind the scenes action from a British Touring Car race; and devised a digital strategy for Newcastle Science City after a rigorous tender process. The agency outlined its ambition in November when it appointed Chris Rhodes, vice president EMEA at Radialpoint and director of Aspen Adventures, as non-executive director as part of plans to reach £1m turnover this year.
The Newcastle office of the national marketing group had plenty of PR success to toast in 2009. At the prestigious North East PRide Awards, the agency was crowned best in class in the public sector category for its Healthy Schools Sunderland campaign; and it was recognised for its consumer PR abilities as well, picking up a silver award in the Best Event category for its Cook of the Year 2009 campaign for Spam. The agency strengthened in December with the arrival of
Claire Rushton from London-based MS&L – where she was a director on the Procter & Gamble account – as head of PR. And it topped off a fine year by winning the National Apprenticeship Service account just before Christmas.
The winner of 2009’s prize for Ad Agency of the Year at the Scottish Advertising Awards, Newhaven picked up several creative awards and continued to maintain a high standard creatively across both public and private sector work. Newhaven may have lost the Bank of Scotland, a massive hit for any company to take, while lager client Tennent’s failed to spend much money before its buy out, but the agency has battled on and won the account for travel company SkyScanner as well as consumer website Biduhappy. Mr Earth’s appearance alongside Gary Numan in an environmental ad for the Scottish Government also typified the agency’s wicked sense of humour.
In a year when many have been looking to cut their cloth accordingly, Glasgow-based D8 has been a real success story, producing quality design work for the likes of the BBC, ScottishPower, Greenpeace and McGhee’s Bakery. The team was added to the high profile BBC roster last year following a thorough review of its design agencies – which saw many previously retained agencies dropped. This year work for the broadcaster completed included, among others, BBC Sports Personality of The Year and Radio 3’s Free Thinking Festival. D8 – which also has an office in Birmingham – has also worked this year with GlaxoSmithKline on an inhouse brand awareness brief, while adding Aberdeen University to the likes of ScottishPower, Russell Europe, RMJM and a host of arts clients across the UK. The agency also added to its digital offering when it took on staff from Cynosure when it was forced to close its doors, forming D8 Digital in May. Meanwhile Andrew Fielding joined as design director from rival 999 and, earlier, John Muir arrived as commercial director from 2Fluid.
Equator’s year didn’t start out with a bang. In fact, the opposite could be said as the agency was forced to make nine staff redundant. However, since then, the company has turned around its fortunes, continuing to create a host of high profile work for clients that include OXY, the Eden Collection, Scottish and Southern Energy, De Vere Hotels, Haven Holidays and Pretty Polly. Recent jobs saw the Glasgow-based digital agency complete new sites for Ramada Jarvis, underwear firm Ultimo and Lewisham College. However, one of the biggest tasks undertaken by the team was for HTC Touch Diamond 2, the flagship Windows Mobile device of 2009, for which Equator created the full European-wide launch campaign. All this happened while the agency moved into new, custom-design offices in Scotland’s largest city. A busy year for the team, who managed to turn a disappointing start into a strong finish.
Having made its way onto the Scottish Government’s PR Framework at the end of 2008, the agency has done well to have been assigned to work with sister ad agency The Leith Agency when the See Me account moved, as well as working on promoting this year’s Alcohol Awareness, Race, Child Development, St Andrew’s Do and Drink Drive campaigns as a result. Richard Marsham was also named chairman of Stripe, replacing John Rowley while Vicki Fox, former director of London-based Red Consultancy joined the board of directors. Despite winning, and then losing the PR account for Grolsch due to no fault of its own, account wins were also numerous including Glasgow’s Christmas Festivities and the launch of Hotel Missoni. The icing on the cake would have come in October though, when the agency picked up the main prize at the CIPR Scotland awards.
AGENCY TO WATCH
One of 2009’s few start-up stories, Midlands-based agency Chapter was launched in April by Mike Rose, the former client services director at Big Communications, and Ian Boulter and Martin Heffernan, who were founding partners in Connect. Based in a rather grand converted church on the outskirts of Birmingham, the agency’s founders promised to offer an alternative to “big agencies that can be inefficient and smaller agencies that can lack weight and experience”. So far Triton, Your Floors, Smart Accident Management and the Royal Air Forces Association have bought into the agency‘s mantra. Many saw this launch as a brave move in a very uncertain economical time, but a conversation with Rose would make anyone realise that he truly believes that the agency’s approach to client service is the key that will make Chapter stand out in the coming years as it builds solid relationships with new clients and cements them with existing clients. It is widely expected that the clients will continue to be added to the agency’s books over the coming year, but even so the founders are keen not to let success run away with them in terms of staff numbers. Chapter is, and will always be, a tightly run ship.
BEST NEW OFFICES
An Agency Called England
Carlsberg don’t do offices, but if they did, they’d probably look something like this: England’s remarkable city centre penthouse in Leeds. Occupying the fourteenth and fifteenth floors of the towering Whitehall Waterfront building on the banks of the Leeds-Liverpool canal, the agency’s stunning base offers a 360 degree panorama of what feels like from the top of Yorkshire. Spacious, with (crucially) a well-stacked bar, it is just a few minutes’ walk from Leeds railway station and must provide one hell of a wow factor when the agency is looking to woo clients.
BEST B2B AGENCY
IAS B2B Marketing
Although its staff are infamously the subject of a strictly enforced booze ban, the lack of liquor has not stopped IAS sweeping all before it to emerge as the B2B world’s most lauded agency in 2009. The Cheshire agency’s plaudits included best B2B agency at the Marketing Industry Network awards and best agency at the B2B Marketing Awards in London. Contracts with the likes of the Forensic Science Service, Kingspan and Opal ensured it wasn’t just the awards that kept coming for IAS, but also clients.
BEST INTEGRATE D AGENCY
An agency that is well established but clearly on the rise is actually an achievement in itself within marketing where shiny new agencies seem to lose their gleam after three years. Not so for Multiply, who picked up Highland Spring’s below the line account last year and saw the year continue along successfully. The Edinburgh agency was behind an in-bar promotion of Bols Triple Sec across 400 UK bars, an internal campaign for Standard Life staff, a promotional campaign for Galloway Cheese, a website for Huggies, picked up BTL accounts for authentic Russian vodka Stolichnaya and Highland Park Whisky. Most would agree that all seems to be well for Mutiply as it enters 2010, certainly the judges of the inaugural Marketing Industry Network awards did. They named the agency Integrated Agency of the Year.
BEST NEW LAUNCH (SCOTLAND)
If there is such a thing as a silver lining when agencies are forced to close their doors it is that sometimes other agencies start up that look likely to go on and strengthen the industry. The Weather, which is the digital team from design agency stalwart Graphic Partners/Greenparka, quickly had to get their house in order when forced to begin on their own when the Edinburgh agency closed, but they did so with the industry wishing it well. The team of three – Charlie Cutler and Darryl Davidson who act as directors of the new agency, and Aaron Harper who took the role of creative director, continue to work with previous clients.
BEST NEW LAUNCH (ENGLAND)
Golden is a relatively new agency born from ex-The Designers Republic staff Rob Brearley and Steve McKevitt and ex-Love member Francis Carolan. It is based in Leeds. Founded in January last year, the team has already managed to win some big name clients like Nike, Harvey Nics and Lurpak—for whom they designed a new typeface Lurpak Sans. The agency is attracting attention from peers and clients alike and the following 12 months look to be golden for the Leeds-based team.