15 agencies you should have heard of

They’re so busy doing amazing work for amazing clients that you might not have heard of them...but you really should have.

Whittled down from a long list of agencies compiled by the combined expertise and insight from The Drum, RAR and MiNetwork, we think our final list includes the best agencies across a variety of disciplines and locations who may thus far have flown under our readers’ radar. We catch up to find out what they’ve been up to, and what their plans are for the future.

383 Project

LOCATION: BirminghamLAUNCHED: 2005OWNERS: John Newbold and Sukhi DehalSTAFF: 21URL: 383project.comJacob Dutton, client services director, 383 ProjectWhat big name clients have you worked on over the years?We feel humbled to work with the clients that we have now and I'm proud to say that we have a superb retention rate. In the past we have done work for Sprite, BBC, Channel 4, Sony and Holiday Inn. We're currently the lead social media agency for Chevrolet across Europe and digital agency for Bullring and Orion Media. More recently we've started working with the Royal Shakespeare Company, The University of Warwick, Mecca Bingo, Chivas, Samsung and Hammerson PLC.What's the most newsworthy work the agency has ever been involved in?I think that wining the Chevrolet account earlier this year has really taken 383 Project into another sphere in terms of recognition and the ability to produce some really brave and exciting work.What key things have happened to the agency in 2011?Winning new accounts with clients that we admire has certainly been a high point. Strengthening the creative and interactive offer at the agency as well as adding a few more strategic heads to the client services team has been key. Being nominated alongside agencies such as AKQA and Dare for DADI Digital Agency of the Year was a particular highlight.What great things does the agency have planned for 2012?As quite an agile and nimble agency we're not 100% sure what we have planned for next month let alone next year! Technology and the way users interact with it is at the heart of what we do, and as we all know this is a constantly changing picture. We'll go where our clients’ audiences go and build campaigns, platforms and applications in their spaces. We are also looking into launching our own products at some point in 2012 which is something that we're excited about. How difficult is it for agencies to build a strong profile while still giving clients their utmost attention?Very difficult. As an agency we work tremendously hard for our clients and they are our first priority, above our reputation or column inches. This year has seen us enter more in the way of awards and we've had some success in this area but I think the key to agencies building great profiles is to do outstanding things - let the work speak for itself. What makes a great agency?In 2011 I think it's about agility, flexibility and bigger ideas. Now that the larger agencies have a digital offer of sorts, clients have started to consolidate their spend back into these shops as opposed to having a different agency for online. The problem that clients are finding here is that the digital departments in these larger agencies are slow to react at times and don't offer much in terms in emerging media or technology. Being outstanding at what you know and not chasing projects that are out of your comfort zone are crucial. We've really found our place in the market now, an agency who simplify a blend of advertising and digital under one roof. Which other agency's work do you most respect?I think we all admire, aspire to and are in slight awe of Wieden + Kennedy. They are a global agency network who have remained fiercely independent whilst still producing consistently meaningful work. Their ideas blur the lines seamlessly between different channels and I don't think there is another agency who do this quite the way that W+K do, although we'd like to think we're getting there!

Ahoy Creative

LOCATION: StockportLAUNCHED: January 2008OWNER: Mark Stringer STAFF: 13URL: ahoycreative.co.ukMark Stringer, managing director, AhoyWhat big name clients have you worked on over the years?Barburrito, Baa Bar, Rowlinson, Berlitz, ASE plcWhat's the most newsworthy work the agency has ever been involved in?The creation of the original branding for Mexican fast food chain, Barburrito, and the subsequent launch of its first restaurant.What key things have happened to the agency in 2011?
  • The move to new premises: a large open plan studio in Heaton Moor.
  • The recruitment of a digital director.
  • The appointment of a new creative director, with the position’s previous occupant (Mark Stringer) moving into a role as Managing Director.
  • The recruitment of an in-house copywriter.
  • The recruitment of a new digital project manager.
  • Expansion of the development team to include a new Magento specialist
What great things does the agency have planned for 2012?
  • Expansion of involvement in ecommerce work
  • Expansion of involvement in search marketing work
  • Expansion and development of branding workshops into larger, speaker-focused events.
How difficult is it for agencies to build a strong profile while still giving clients their utmost attention?The task itself is not a difficult one; it’s more about actually finding the time to do it. Some of the less time-intensive tasks, such as augmenting an agency’s search ranking position, can help raise profiles significantly. What makes a great agency?
  • Above all else, it’s about talented and responsible team members.
  • An agency that can successfully bridge the gap between brand strategy and digital know-how
  • As design and creativity can essentially be chaotic disciplines, it’s essential that an agency establishes a solid, step-driven process. This not only provides a structure in which the designers can safely let their creativity flow, but also allows the client to understand clearly what stage their job is at.
Which other agency's work do you most respect?
  • Creative Spark for its work with high profile clients such as Peter Kay and Lily Allen.
  • Interior design agency, Richard Chadwick Associates, for its work in the Food & Drink industry with clients such as Barburrito, Cuppa and Joseph Holt pubs. Richard himself is a highly talented, visionary designer.

Beyond Design

LOCATION: MaidenheadLAUNCHED: 2002STAFF: 5 plus freelance supportURL: beyond-design.co.ukPaul Ringsell, BeyondWhen did the agency launch?Beyond was established in 2002. We still maintain some of those client and supplier relationships almost 10 years down the line, and good business is about building long-term relationships.Who owns the agency?There are three shareholders in the business, all of whom spend their days (and nights!) working hard at Beyond.How many staff does it employ?The core team in the design studio is 5, with ongoing support from our network of talented freelancers.What big name clients have you worked on over the years?EA SPORTS, Walt Disney, Cisco, Weight Watchers, Pioneer, Silverstone, Dun & Bradstreet; our client base is probably about as diverse as it gets.What's the most newsworthy work the agency has ever been involved in?We have worked on some significant projects over the years, but one that made the national news was a political campaign designed to discredit the opinions of a high profile cabinet minister; probably one we shouldn't really mention.What key things have happened to the agency in 2011?We moved into our new purpose-built studio at the backend of last year, so 2011 has been all about growing into the new environment. We've added some key personnel to the team and reshaped our business strategy for the next 5 years.What great things does the agency have planned for 2012?Our strategic approach to communications means we operate across all media channels, so we're excited by the impact of social media on the marketing strategy. Although our design approach is never led by the technology, there are some fascinating digital innovations happening that we're keen to explore.How difficult is it for agencies to build a strong profile while still giving clients their utmost attention?Building your business profile is an ongoing process. It is a difficult balance when you're busy tending to the needs of your clients, so we often find ourselves burning the candle to ensure we get noticed.What makes a great agency?Beyond is founded on the simple philosophy that work should be an enjoyable part of our lives. Our satisfaction and success comes from seeing the fruits of our imagination make something happen, which invariably makes for a happy client. If we can smash the client's objectives and everyone enjoys the process, then we've done a great job. It you can deliver a great job every time, then you've nailed it!Which other agency's work do you most respect?Individually, the team at Beyond is an eclectic blend of different skills and experience so we all draw influence from different places. Personally, I admire and respect the work of agencies who don't necessarily follow the crowd. Those who are not afraid to stick their heads above the parapet and try something different, which usually requires input from a brave client! Some of the agencies whose body of work stands out in my mind are AirSide, Intro, Love Creative, Designers Republic, and Studio Output are doing some great stuff at the moment. 


LOCATION: WindsorOWNER: The Brandwidth Group is privately-owned and funded by the founding shareholder directors and partnersSTAFF: 80+URL: brandwidth.co.ukDean Johnson, executive creative director, BrandwidthWhat big name clients have you worked on over the years?Clients include Toyota, Intercontinental Hotels Group, Asda, Guinness World Records, Unilever, Santander, Constellation Europe, Safestore, Lexus, CIOB, City University, Unisys, Atos Origin, Warner Music, Random House, TNT Post and BBC, Macmillan Publishing, Visa, GSMA, Unilever, RIMWhat's the most newsworthy work the agency has ever been involved in?In recent months our work in digital publishing has caught quite a lot of attention, particularly as our work looks to add value to the content in tablet form rather than substitute the book format. Our app for Guinness World Records made a lot of noise, particularly as people were able to set up their own iPad world records for the first time. More recently our work with BBC Worldwide on the Doctor Who Encyclopedia and Journey to the Exoplanets for Scientific American have also had an incredible response. Our work for Toyota has also won awards and helped us to achieve a top 10 status for content and development. We handle InterContinental Hotels Group's European digital leisure marketing strategy for the Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, and InterContinental brands. This was built on the premise that if you can talk to guests about their interests and hobbies, they're receptive to offers about a comfortable place to stay nearby, which becomes particularly compelling when connecting users to fun things to see and do via their existing social media profiles. The work is ongoing but we anticipate this is a story many consumers and brands will find relevant.What key things have happened to the agency in 2011?Making it to the top 10 Digital Agencies in the UK in the Pitch/Marketing Week Survey was a good moment. We have had some great buzz about our work on iPad apps for global publishers such as Random House, Guinness World Records, and Scientific American – with two consecutive ‘App of the Week’ in iTunes, which delighted our clients and proved the quality of our the work. Being an FWA App of the Day and winning a Lovie for Journey to The Exoplanets was also great. All of this has created some real momentum for us within the publishing and entertainment world. The experiential side of our business has also seen significant growth, including setting up an operation in Dublin to help support our clients in Ireland.Beyond that, other notable clients include Toyota, a long-standing client. We are quite excited about the launch of a new format car chapter design for the Toyota Auris Hybrid. We created a digital brand experience that featured 3D spins, interior walkthroughs and instant finance calculations for potential buyers. Recently we have launched an entirely new dealer website solution and have a forthcoming customer portal that will be a leading development in the industry. What great things does the agency have planned for 2012?We are currently focusing on exploring new avenues for commercialising digital publishing and customer communications via tablet computer devices, with a particular focus on the entertainment industry. The group is also investing into the experiential, search and social media part of the business, which we anticipate as areas for growth. How difficult is it for agencies to build a strong profile while still giving clients their utmost attention?For us the key is to focus on doing good work, and our clients are the priority. We do seek to collaborate with our client team upon launch to promote our work, but always for mutual benefit and with our client’s agreement. Most clients welcome it, as we are often able to complement their own marketing and public relations efforts with our own contacts and networks. Which other agency's work do you most respect?Proximity, VCCP, IDEO, Wieden + Kennedy, Moving Tales, Heatherwick Studio 


LOCATION: AltrinchamLAUNCHED: 1998OWNER: Christina ClarkeSTAFF: 14URL: c-21.co.ukChristina Clarke, director, C21What big name clients have you worked on over the years?
The agency has worked on some interesting and well-known brands over the years such as The Co-operative Bank, The Bank of Scotland, FIFA, Football Club United of Manchester, St Helena Tourism, Imagine Ireland Holiday Cottages, Manchester Metropolitan University, Salford University, Lancaster University, Royal Manchester Children's Hospital Charity, Roberts Bakery, Johnson Diversey, Honeywell, Seddon Homes, Wates Living Space and Weatherseal, to name a few.What's the most newsworthy work the agency has ever been involved in?
One of our long standing clients operate in the disposable paper sector and for a range of heavy duty products they were launching in the UK, we created a campaign using the legendary comic Bernard Manning dressed, rather ironically, as an angel. We created the outfit made out of the client’s paper products. We weren’t sure what to expect when he came to the photographer’s studio but as it happened he was very professional and accommodating. That was quite a surreal day. The photograph was picked up by one of the national dailies after the campaign ran and used for an article they were featuring about Bernard’s life. What key things have happened to the agency in 2011?
2011 has been a whirlwind year for us but these are some of the key things that have happened.RebrandWe rebranded early in the year adopting the colour yellow because it’s known to have a stimulating effect on the mind but also because it represents renewal and we’ve reinvented ourselves. Through a great fund raising initiative between UNICEF and Dulux, we now officially own a vibrant shade of yellow too, which we named ‘Hello Yellow’.IPA MembershipWe were delighted to be accepted as members of the IPA in March and we’ve got so much out of the partnership already, including winning our first new client directly as a result of being a member. New BusinessDespite the tricky economic background we’ve had some exciting and interesting new business wins this year from a roofing contractors in Liverpool to an environmental, recycling company in Sydney, Australia, a well-known engineering company in Wythenshawe to personal injury lawyers in Manchester. We’ve even had our first piece of new business as a direct result of our social media activity on Twitter. It may still be a tough marketplace, and I think it will continue that way for some time, but there’s definitely opportunity out there.What great things does the agency have planned for 2012?
As part of the IPA membership, it’s mandatory that every member of staff commits to continuous professional development. We believe this is essential in our industry due to the speed of change and the dynamics between media. From a CPD perspective, C21 has already credited well over 600 hours this year, double the requirement, and we’re in discussion with the IPA about applying for Gold Accreditation. That would be a real achievement in our first year as a member.One of the things that we really believe in is helping potential new talent get a step on the ladder. So, last year we devised a fabulous, work experience programme specifically for students spending time with the agency. This was extremely rewarding, both for us and for the students, and we’re already taking placement applications for 2012.How difficult is it for agencies to build a strong profile while still giving clients their utmost attention?
It’s difficult but not impossible. You need to be focused, resourceful and share the responsibility out creatively. Clients always have to come first though, that’s a given.What makes a great agency?
Definitely, the people – It’s the people that make an agency shine, for us, having a strong, supportive team creating work that makes clients happy means our world isn’t just bright, it’s brilliant.Which other agency's work do you most respect?From a broader perspective, BBH, RKCR/Y&R, Build and Sumo. More locally, Love, Like A River and Music tick all the right boxes. 

Chocolate Communications

LOCATION: ClitheroeLAUNCHED: June 2006OWNER: Tracy ArcherSTAFF: 6 plus freelance supportURL: chocolatecomms.comTracy Archer, managing director, Chocolate CommunicationsWhat big name clients have you worked on over the years?
  • Launched a customer engagement programme for National Express
  • Launched the Butler product for Sandals into the UK market
  • Redeveloped the loyalty programme for East Coast Mainline
  • Launched new brand for ITC Classics called Caribbean Connection
  • Customer engagement strategy for Newcastle Building Society
  • New product development consultancy for Moneysupermarket,/li>
  • Direct mail for William Hill
  • Mobile strategy for Cameron Mackintosh Theatres
  • Various websites for Visit Chester and Cheshire
  • Brand development and all communications for NST School Travel – market leader in the sector and part of the Holiday Break Group.
What's the most newsworthy work the agency has ever been involved in?Brand Development - National Express came to us for help in creating and launching their customer engagement programme for frequent train travellers on the East Coast mainline franchise. It was primarily targeted at frequent business travellers and the rewards could be used for business or pleasure.The creative approach was unique and very distinctive which meant that it stood out from all the other business communications. We developed the ‘escape' sub brand including brand guidelines that work together with the existing core guidelines.Direct Marketing - The launch revolved around station posters and leaflets, in-train leaflets and magazine articles as well as a bespoke area on the main website where travellers could either join the scheme or check their current allocation of offers and rewards. Within a short time of launch the scheme had attracted many more members than anticipated and was judged a success by National Express.What key things have happened to the agency in 2011?

  • We moved into new offices on Clitheroe but we are also looking for an office in Manchester to coincide with our relaunch – see below.
  • Being nominated for an MI Award
  • Launching a completely new company from scratch for our client WST School Travel, looking after all of their marketing as their resource is limited, and helping them achieve a terrific first year’s trading results.
  • Winning the pitch for The Newcastle Building Society customer engagement program and then producing a campaign that worked its socks off from a sales perspective!
  • New clients won in 2011 –There were 6 including Global Travel – hot off the press – press release to follow in next couple of weeks
  • Tempting Senior Planner Cindy Curtois from McCanns into the Chocolate team
What great things does the agency have planned for 2012?We are relaunching under a new name - Chocolate Spread. We believe it is more representative of the social landscape we are all finding ourselves in. The new brand currency is peer to peer recommendation, which is all about spreading the word – hence Chocolate Spread.We are in a good position to deliver ROI from the social strategies we are developing for our clients, because of our direct marketing backgrounds. We have a great team in place, a very healthy new business pipeline and we have an ambitious plan for growth in 2012. Because of our wealth of experience in the travel sector we are also planning to launch a specialist travel division, which will focus solely on the highly competitive travel sector.Also for 2012 - recent client acquisition - a new hotel only website launching at the beginning of next year which plans to rival booking.com – confidential at the moment – so we cannot reveal the brand name yet, but VERY exciting.How difficult is it for agencies to build a strong profile while still giving clients their utmost attention?We run a very lean ship with a small core team so there is very little spare time – it really is a case of cobbler’s children not having any shoes!Having said that we do targeted new business sector initiatives when we have something particularly relevant to say, which has been successful for us. We also try and keep everyone up to speed with what’s going through Twitter. Networking is our most effective and time efficient new business tool.What makes a great agency?People that are passionate about what they do who are committed to producing great ideas and results for clients. Work not being put into silos so that the clients get a truly integrated campaign that works best for them rather than the agency. We find our business model helps us deliver both of these very well.Which other agency's work do you most respect?Twentysix in Leeds. They truly understand how people are living their lives on line and as a result, produce some inspirational customer focused websites. 

Creature London

LOCATION: LondonLAUNCHED: March 2011OWNER: Shared between the Partners of Creature of London and Creature of SeattleSTAFF: 8 plus freelance supportURL: creaturelondon.comDan Shute, managing partner, CreatureWhat big name clients have you worked on over the years?At Creature, we’re working with Microsoft, HP, Penguin, Sky Arts, the BFI, the Real Fight Club, and others. In past lives, we’ve worked on everything from PG Tips to Pot Noodle, Coca Cola to Corsa, the Observer to Orange, the Sun to Sky. (We quite like alliteration.)What's the most newsworthy work the agency has ever been involved in?I’d love to claim it was FiftyforFifty, our design competition, that began with a hungover chat about the new £50 note and culminated in a massive exhibition at JaguarShoes in Shoreditch that received global acclaim and went on to tour all the great galleries of the Western World (NB I’m writing this the day before it launches): realistically, though, the fashion film we made (‘I Want Muscle’, directed by Elisha Smith-Leverock, with the quite brilliant KnockKnock Productions) picking up the Grand Prix at the world’s most prestigious fashion film festival was probably the high point of our first six months.What key things have happened to the agency in 2011?We’ve won our first pitches; made great work for our Clients; won a couple of awards; hired and worked with a bunch of utterly brilliant people; over all though, actually launching is probably the biggest thing that’s happened to us this year.What great things does the agency have planned for 2012?Where to begin? We want to keep doing great things for smart clients with exciting people. We want to meet more exciting people. We want to learn more about bees, so we can make more honey. We want to grow our network of people who want to make brilliant things, and we want to make some cultural impact for them, for us and for our Clients. We want to launch the film club we were talking about this afternoon. We want to help the Clients we’re talking to make category-changing work. We want to talk to more Clients. We want to end the year a bit bigger than we are now, but still small enough to be nimble and exciting. We’d probably like to sleep a bit more.How difficult is it for agencies to build a strong profile while still giving clients their utmost attention?Not difficult at all. (See previous comment about sleep.)What makes a great agency?Ask us in a year. We suspect/hope it’s a desire to make brilliant things that people actually want to talk about, rather than making what you want, and then trying to get people to talk about it; Creatives that are strategists, and strategists that are creatives; producers who want to make stuff, whatever medium that stuff happens to exist in; people whose instinctive response is ‘Absolutely we can; now let me work out how’ rather than ‘The answer’s no; what was the question again?’; a cultural strategist; an amazing office manager; and, in all seriousness, a lack of sleep.Which other agency's work do you most respect?The last ads we got excited about were from BBH and DLKW, for very different reasons. We all have a lot of time for Mother, glue, DLKW and the other agencies that taught us all of the stuff we know. 


LOCATION: LeedsLAUNCHED: January 2009OWNER: Steven McKevitt, Robert Brearley and Francis CarolanSTAFF: less than 10URL: wearegolden.co.ukFrancis Carolan, managing director, GoldenWhat big name clients have you worked on over the years?We have been fortunate enough to work with a number of big-name clients. However, we also work with several less well-known - though no less impressive - companies. It's this blend that keeps things interesting.What's the most newsworthy work the agency has ever been involved in?We've worked on a number of notable projects, from the 2010 FIFA World Cup through to the London 2012 Olympic Games.What key things have happened to the agency in 2011?2011 has been a great year for us: we've been incredibly busy, picked up a host of new clients, and employed some very talented people.What great things does the agency have planned for 2012?We hope to recruit more people and build further on the achievements of 2011.
How difficult is it for agencies to build a strong profile while still giving clients their utmost attention?It's not particularly difficult, if that's your aim. However a strong profile has never necessarily been a keen indicator of an agency's qualities or capabilities. We choose to showcase work by producing our own books and posters and distributing them to a targeted list of clients. This may result in a low-key profile amongst industry peers, but ultimately it's clients who will provide us with the opportunities to flourish.
What makes a great agency?John Lasseter said "Quality is the best business plan" and that seems to be a maxim realised by the best agencies. It's certainly a strategy to which we aspire at Golden.
Which other agency's work do you most respect?Agencies whose work we often encounter on client projects, namely Accept & Proceed, Hort, ilovedust, Intro and Wieden+Kennedy.


LOCATION: CardiffLAUNCHED: 2004OWNER:Siôn Dafydd and Alwyn ThomasSTAFF: 4URL: kutchibok.co.ukSiôn Dafydd, creative director, KutchibokWhat big name clients have you worked on over the years?
We tend to work with smaller businesses but have produced work for NHS Wales, Plaid Cymru and S4C.What's the most newsworthy work the agency has ever been involved in?Our work for the Celt Experience Brewery, 
was highly acclaimed and recognized. With this branding we have won one international and two British awards. Celt Ales are now being highlighted by the Welsh Government as a successful Welsh product and are now being widely exported across the globe to countries like Italy, France, Canada and Japan. The brewery has won several accolades and awards from the likes of CAMRA and True Taste.What key things have happened to the agency in 2011?
2011 has been a great year for Kutchibok. We have worked on some really exciting projects this year – one of them, “Mrs Bedfords Jam” culminating in winning the “Best Packaging Award” at this year’s Cardiff Design Festival. We’ve gained some interesting and varied new clients, from a unique Café Kitchen Bar, a Vineyard producing quality wines to the National Literacy Agency for Wales.What great things does the agency have planned for 2012?
Due to our rapidly expanding client base, we are looking into sourcing new commercial premises, building upon the success of existing clients and looking to attract some of the bigger players in the luxury lifestyle brand market.How difficult is it for agencies to build a strong profile while still giving clients their utmost attention?It is difficult for small companies to strike the right balance. Combining the business model and needs of a design studio with the creative work process is challenging. Our Business Manager provides us with valuable administrative assistance and expertise enabling us to focus on the visual world, which is our passion, and give our clients the attention to detail they deserve. Design competitions create the platform for building a strong profile and Kutchibok’s work has been recognized and celebrated by various awards of which we are extremely proud. What makes a great agency?One that is passionate, eats, breathes and sleeps designOne where the client is at the centre of everythingOne that is constantly challenging itselfOne that is able to turn, what might seem to be a mundane, un-inspired project to something exciting and inspirationalOne that takes the time to understand clients’ briefs and work holistically One that strives to produce innovative, high quality work and pays great attention to detailOne that thinks outside the box and is willing to take risksOne that builds and maintains strong relationships with their clientsWhich other agency's work do you most respect?We have some great local agencies who are a stone’s throw away from us – the likes of Elfen and Departures, further afield we admire the work of Adelaide based Mash Design who produce creative and original work with a quirky, illustrative, humorous approach, and Marque Creative with their beautifully considered high end branding and uncompromising attention to detail.

Mercedes Crescenti

LOCATION: ManchesterLAUNCHED: September 2009OWNERS: Mercedes Crescenti and Ben SwiftSTAFF: 5 (for a shoot, team can be in excess of 50)URL: mercedescrescenti.tvBen Swift, executive producer, Mercedes CrescentiWhat big name clients have you worked on over the years?In the last 2 years alone we have made ads for Geox, Cadbury, Pepsi, Sony, Dominos, Syco Music, WD-40, EA Games and Turkish Airlines to name just a fewWhat's the most newsworthy work the agency has ever been involved in?A couple of months ago we made an ad with Sebastian Vettel right before he won the F1 world championship which was fun, but our recent star-studded Feature Film "Being Sold" (beingsoldthemovie.com) has had us in newspapers, on TV news and across the web, not least because we managed to shoot the whole thing in less than 2 days and on a tiny budget.What key things have happened to the agency in 2011?This year we increased turnover by more than 80%, grew our staff numbers, launched our high-end Events sister company (So Beautiful Events) and brought in even more great work for high-profile brands.What great things does the agency have planned for 2012?We're really excited about some of the work we have lined up for next year - not just our core production work, but also on the Events and large-scale experiential side of things - watch this space!!How difficult is it for agencies to build a strong profile while still giving clients their utmost attention?It can be hard if you focus on traditional methods of publicity, but our model has evolved based more on word of mouth. We focus entirely on providing unrivalled client-service, and we've found that word gets around much faster than if we'd invested heavily in advertising or PR. What makes a great agency?Great work should be a given, but this business is all about people so, for us, making our clients feel properly loved is possibly even more important than making sure our work always exceeds expectations.Which other agency's work do you most respect?We're big fans of the work coming out of LOVE in Manchester, AMV/BBDO,180Amsterdam and Mother London. Another Film Company in London are also making some great ads (and they're nice people too!)

Merchant Soul

LOCATION: GlasgowLAUNCHED: February 2011OWNER: Merchant Soul is owned by Stephen Halpin. Merchant Soul Sponsorship is owned by Stephen Halpin and Scott SteedmanSTAFF: 11URL: merchantsoul.co.ukStephen Halpin, managing director, Merchant SoulWhat big name clients have you worked on over the years?Tesco Bank, UEFA, Scottish Premier League, Scottish Golf Union, Kwik Fit Insurance, Edinburgh College of Art, Scottish Dance Theatre, Southampton Football Club, streetfootballworld, What's the most newsworthy work the agency has ever been involved in? Undoubtedly, the activation of the Tesco Bank Football Challenge Programme - a seven figure, 4 year partnership with the Scottish FA. This has just entered its second year and has created £200,000 of media value within the last 100 days. The programme, which introduces football, fitness and fun to primary 2 and primary 3 boys and girls throughout Scotland, has so far had almost 30000 children participate.What key things have happened to the agency in 2011?Bringing Scott Steedman into the business and successfully launching Merchant Soul Sponsorship - which identifies, negotiates, manages and activates commercial sponsorship and partnerships across the country on behalf of both rights holders (e.g. The Scottish Premier League, Scottish Golf Union) and brands looking to associate themselves with these sports and competitions (e.g. Telco Bank).The other one would be our work with Street League, the charity that changes lives through football. Brand development, strategic support and website development has really helped them step up a level this year. Their expansion plan across the UK is ambitious, but they have the support of some heavyweight organisations - they are both the FA's and No.10 Downing Street's charity partner, which together with their brilliant new CEO and management team make them a force to be reckoned with. You may have noticed that the recent England vs Spain game was a Street League International...which is one of many initiatives that these partnerships are beginning to develop.What great things does the agency have planned for 2012?Continuing to demonstrate the real value delivered by integrated creative thinking across all client comms...something that we are passionate about delivering to our clients.From a commercial perspective, the search for and securing of commercial partners for the SPL and SGU will, we believe, unearth some exciting new sponsorships this coming year.The offices and studio are being re-fitted over the Christmas break...so a new working environment will be great. How difficult is it for agencies to build a strong profile while still giving clients their utmost attention?It's not about us...it's about our clients and their brands being the heroes. By focussing on them and delivering a great service, value for money that generates bottom line results, our profile will take care of itself. Notwithstanding this...we do need to get our website sorted!!!What makes a great agency?Great people working hard as part of a great team for great clients. Simples.Which other agency's work do you most respect?Maybe it's because of our ethos...but smaller agencies working with big clients always catch our attention...e.g. Music have done some great work with Manchester City and some other cracking clients. They've managed to really set the tone of an already big club on the cusp of the really big time - bold, ballsy, impactful with the added bit of tongue in cheek humour that is so often missing in the serious world of sport.Oh how I'd love to work with their budgets!!


LOCATION: GlasgowLAUNCHED: April 2010OWNERS: Jason Wagner and The Bridge (joint venture agreement)STAFF: Six freelanceURL: pingcreates.comWhat big name clients have you worked on over the years?Wonderbra, SNBTS, Zero Waste Scotland, Dobbies Garden Centre, Stenna Line and Abertay University. What's the most newsworthy work the agency has ever been involved in?We recently launched our first iPhone app for Abertay University with our sister agency, The Bridge, and I’m very proud of the result. In a nutshell, it’s a virtual careers advisor which manages to bring together technology and creativity to deliver consumer engagement – it’s exactly the sort of “Connected Creativity” that we believe in at Ping. It’s not as one-dimensional as asking “what grades you got at school?” and giving you a list of courses. Instead it interacts with consumers and understands how they engage with technology. It’s fun but manages at the same time to deliver extensive and detailed information which we could never deliver in more traditional media.Although this was our first iPhone app, I was very aware that the Apple development and review process is a tough nut to crack and the app had to be ready in time for the online and TV campaign start date. It was a tight deadline so essential that the development and creative ran smoothly conforming to strict guidelines from Apple. After weeks of hard work from everyone involved, it passed on its first review and is available now for download, five weeks before the campaign launch.What key things have happened to the agency in 2011?With the launch of our website Ping has grown from strength to strength in 2011 and it's been a great year as many more doors have opened. We’re working closely with Speakeasy to create a cutting edge touch screen interface for a prominent private investment bank in London. We’re constantly developing highly creative digital work with The Bridge for many of their clients including Caledonian MacBrayne, SNBTS and Zero Waste Scotland. In the latter half of this year we started a series of social media workshops for many of our clients helping them to develop a strategy they can run in-house with great results. And we’re continuing to build upon the success of last year creating games and web sites for international clients. Ping is firing on all cylinders and I’m loving each and every minute!What great things does the agency have planned for 2012?We’re going to continue to build upon the success of 2011 and find the key to open even more doors direct to the client. Over the last year Ping has proven we’re here to stay for the long run. It’s about steady, consistent growth creating quality apps, websites, games and providing a one to one service to our clients. Next year will see the release of our first game for mobile and will further prove us as a creative and technology led company. How difficult is it for agencies to build a strong profile while still giving clients their utmost attention?The client will always come first and that’s the way it should be – in fact I see this as a great advantage for Ping. Rather than shy away from our current size I embrace it and in doing so can provide a more personal service than bigger agencies. When a client calls they get straight through to the MD (that’s me btw) and get an answer there and then. No need to call back, no need to wait, simple.Also, I find the best time for profile building is on commutes to meet clients but I’ll admit their isn’t enough time in the day to properly promote Ping. I always like to do a big push when we launch a new app, create a new campaign or provide a new service. What makes a great agency?Communication – it can easily be overlooked when you’re juggling multiple projects but it’s key to keeping everyone informed and passionate about the project. It helps that I love to talk but it’s also about listening to the client and the team, being one step ahead on any project and making informed decisions so that you can pre-empt an issue or problem. Which other agency's work do you most respect?TBWA - I absolutely love the Müller Television ad featuring cartoon characters Yogi Bear, Muttley and Mr Men created by TBWA and Müller marketing director Lee Rolston. Fun, creative and more than anything it makes me smile.


LOCATION: ManchesterLAUNCHED: April 2007OWNERS: Jonathan McNamara and Matt Kendall STAFF: 13URL: retrofuzz.comJonathan McNamara and Matt Kendall, RetroFuzzWhen did the agency launch?RetroFuzz has existed in some way since January 2003 when Jonathan McNamara left a previous company to travel more and work as a freelance web developer. It was at this point that he started working with a designer called Matt Kendall, who was employed by an agency in London at the time.After Matt went freelance a year or so later, they began working remotely from their back bedrooms before eventually renting shared desk space in a studio in Manchester's Northern Quarter towards the end of 2006. RetroFuzz Ltd was then formed on 3rd April 2007.Who owns the agency?Jonathan and Matt are still the big cheeses.How many staff does it employ?Alongside the two directors we have seven staff - a production manager, three designers and three developers.What big name clients have you worked on over the years?There have been several over the years, here are some of the more notable ones:The Stone Roses, Noel Gallagher, Lady Gaga, Take That, Arctic Monkeys, U2, R.E.M., Beady Eye, Pixie Lott, Eastpak, Lee Jeans, Levi'sWhat's the most newsworthy work the agency has ever been involved in?We looked after the online announcements for Robbie Williams re-joining Take That, The Stone Roses reformation press conference and also Noel Gallagher announcing his solo work to the world. All three were timed announcements alongside other media and saw massive numbers of people looking at our sites. Thankfully we were fully prepared on the server side of things for all three!What key things have happened to the agency in 2011?In February we moved into a studio that was three times the size of the previous one, mainly due to the fact that the previous studio was literally full and we couldn't fit another single person in there.Along with promoting our senior developer Rob to be our production manager, we've also taken on three new staff members. We think both of these HR choices have given our production team a great balance. They've also given us a little more space in our schedules to go out and meet people and work on pushing the business forward.Overall the company has progressed massively this year - from finally launching an exhaustive body of work on our own website, to being invited to work with Lady Gaga, Noel Gallagher, and The Stone Roses, it feels like both our team and our work are better than they've ever been - which is a very exciting feeling.What great things does the agency have planned for 2012?In the past we've always tended to focus on creating something great for the projects that we have in our schedule rather than make a business plan and think too much about the future, though this is changing now with the staffing changes outlined above.We really want to capitalise on our recent successes and keep pushing the company forward. We're hoping to push things forward in 2012 by hiring a new business development manager who can hopefully help us capitalise on all of the good work we've done over the years and help us get involved with even more exciting projects. Exciting new projects are what motivate us more than anything else. Onwards and upwards.How difficult is it for agencies to build a strong profile while still giving clients their utmost attention?It's difficult to do both well, or at least it is in our experience of being a small agency. It all depends where your focus lies.We're sure many agencies find it relatively simple to build their profile in the early days by spending more time talking about themselves than they do working for their clients. We've always been completely focussed on looking after our clients and doing great work for them, so as a result shouting about ourselves doesn't really seem necessary - especially when you consider that every single piece of work we've done has come through a referral from somewhere. We had one new client call us earlier this year and she had been given our details by eight different people! Having said that, our profile does seem to be building slowly but surely over time as a result of our work, which is exactly how we want it to be. Our work is what we're most interested in - and it's what we want other people to be interested in too.What makes a great agency?In our experience, you have to look after people properly - and consistently - not just on the big jobs. Our entire business is based upon the relationships we've nurtured with our clients and suppliers over the years, as well as our staff members who work tirelessly for us. We simply wouldn't be where we are today if we didn't have the right people around us.Relationships should be looked at as long term prospects - every high profile project we've ever done has been preceded by countless other projects that are just as important to us as a company that need just as much attention from a clients point of view. People don't just ring you up and ask you to make Lady Gaga's website if they don't have any faith in you.By the same token, we look after our staff properly as well by treating them as human beings first and workers second. If our staff are happy, they can do great work. We've never aimed to reach a certain head count in terms of team size - it's much more important to us that each new staff member brings a new element to the team, rather than just making us a bigger company.Which other agency's work do you most respect?We respect anyone who values the same principles as us - walking the walk and not talking the talk!  


LOCATION: LondonLAUNCHED: January 2010OWNERS: Will Tunstall, Chris Edwards & Marcus Foley STAFF: 10URL: thisistommy.comMarcus Foley, Managing Partner, Tommy What big name clients have you worked on over the years?We’re very proud of our client list which in such a short space of time includes Google, Microsoft & Xbox, Paramount Pictures International, EMI, The Macallan, Blackthorn Cider, BT, Tesco, Nestlé and not forgetting our first ever paying client Paul Smith.What's the most newsworthy work the agency has ever been involved in?It has to be our campaign promoting England's bid to host the 2018 Football World Cup. It's not every day you get a ‘66 World Cup legend to launch one of your campaigns. Tommy were tasked to create a campaign with massive PR'ability to support the launch of BT Vision's sport offering whilst promoting their sponsorship of the FA's bid to host the 2018 tournament. We devised a virtual supporters flag where fans were invited to sign their name or upload their photo to mark their support. The photos and names collectively made a mosaic bearing the 2018 Bid logo. Geoff Hurst and Peter Crouch launched the campaign by signing our flag as it was beamed onto the side of Wembley. This ran on Sky Sports, ITV and BBC news. Football Clubs, Fanzines, Celebrities and fans alike all endorsed the campaign and the virtual flag became reality when it was presented to Bid officials and press on the hallowed turf of Wembley. With over 126 coverage pieces including the national press, TV, and a cumulative fan reach of over 2,000,000 the campaign exceeded all targets set and firmly placed BT at the heart of the football community the length and breadth of the country. What key things have happened to the agency in 2011?- As well as setting up our new studio in Central London and launching our long awaited website the highlights include being commissioned for our second Google campaign, selected to work on every Paramount Pictures International release in 2011, working on movie monsters like Transformers, Kung Fu Panda, Captain America, Tintin, Mission Impossible and seeing the work featured in over 60 countries internationally. What great things does the agency have planned for 2012?Well apart from getting our Twitter followers up to 1 Million, we have a very long way to go, we are looking forward to working with the leading film studio's on their upcoming releases, working with one of the World’s leading Architects and upping the game of celebrity sports websites. How difficult is it for agencies to build a strong profile while still giving clients their utmost attention?- It can prove tricky for smaller agencies like ourselves. We are so focussed on project delivery we have little time to think about our own PR profile. "So big thanks for this feature, we wouldn't have asked" What makes a great agency?Lovely talented people. Hands down. Which other agency's work do you most respect?- Wow, now you’re asking. There is so much great work being produced it’s hard to know where to start. The awesomeness of B-REEL’s work this year: they have really been pushing the boundaries of technology, particularly HTML5 and you can tell they work with clients who trust their vision. We also admire Poke: consistently creative and demonstrate how an agency should approach a retained clients work. You only have to look at their project with Orange, The Feed as a pointer to this.


LOCATION: SurreyLAUNCHED: 2007OWNER: Until July 2010, Mark Deeprose but now Jellyfish Online Marketing Ltd STAFF: 12URL: creativeuncle.co.ukRichard Tidman, client services director, UncleWhat big name clients have you worked on over the years?Loads thankfully, but there are some highlights; Skype, Virgin Holidays, Fidelity Worldwide, Time Magazine and Waitrose in the UK, and GameStop in the US stand out.What's the most newsworthy work the agency has ever been involved in?Probably our landing page work for Skype which ended up influencing their corporate website redesign, or the Virgin Holidays Trade Advertising Identity we worked on last year, we enjoyed that.What key things have happened to the agency in 2011?Developing our online proposition and becoming more confident in our approach to digital, a couple of great hires have helped to this effect. We still love a bit of print design, but digital presents huge opportunities and a rapidly evolving landscape, which keeps it interesting. We've been busy working for US clients too, our parent company has opened up this market to us. Different aesthetic sensibilities entirely.What great things does the agency have planned for 2012?We'd really like to secure a roster spot with two or three big brands next year, but we also have a big push in the new year which will ring some big changes. Watch this space. How difficult is it for agencies to build a strong profile while still giving clients their utmost attention?It's pretty tough, organisations like the RAR help, but otherwise we try our best to keep in touch with everyone in our network, and deliver great work. Reputation counts for a lot.What makes a great agency?The combination of the right people and the right approach, as well as understanding and playing to your strengths. Our strength lies in our ability to deliver positive ROI through the application of effective design. Uncle is a very commercially focussed agency and you'll see that in our people as well as our work.Which other agency's work do you most respect?Non-format for their print/art direction and Fantasy Interactive for their digital…  

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