The Suit Awards

By The Drum, Administrator

December 12, 2002 | 10 min read

They say that bad luck travels in threes, but what they don’t say, though, is that good luck also appears to travel in threes.

Or so it seemed last month when Manchester’s BDH\TBWA was named Advertising Agency of the Year for the third year running at the annual Marketeer Suit Awards and Leicester-based design consultancy Checkland Kindleysides was named Robert Horne Midlands & West Design Consultancy of the Year, also for the third consecutive year.

Realistically, of course, luck has had absolutely nothing to do with their continued success, as Dave Hunter and Alan Johnstone explain.

BDH\TBWA’s dominance of all three Suit Awards events to date has not been brought about merely by rabbits’ feet and crossed fingers, but rather as a result of sound client service and an aggressive new business strategy that has steadily brought new accounts in, while ensuring that not much business walks out the door.

In the last twelve months BDH\TBWA has brought on board a raft of new accounts, ranging from Manchester shopping development The Triangle through to Breville and new projects for Cussons and Nissan. And all this while managing to retain accounts for clients like The Newspaper Society and COI.

BDH\TBWA collected its award at this year’s Suit Awards ceremony, held at the Jarvis Piccadilly Hotel on 31 October. The event, hosted by comedian Paul Boardman, was attended by more than 120 of the advertising industry faithful.

The research for this year’s Suit Awards followed the same model as in previous years, with questionnaires being distributed to creative agencies, media independents and media sales teams. Agencies were quizzed on accounts won and lost over the duration of the past year, as well as their opinions of rival agencies in the regions, while media sales teams were asked to nominate which media agencies and individuals they particularly admire.

It was through amassing an impressive collection of scores across several categories that BDH\TBWA emerged at the top of the crop. Again. BDH\TBWA was closely followed on the finalist table by rival Manchester top dogs CheethamBellJWT and McCann-Erickson Manchester, as well as Leeds-based Poulter Partners.

One of the main contributing

factors to BDH\TBWA’s success at this year’s awards was a sound performance in the Peer Poll. BDH\TBWA came top of the poll, being lauded for its “consistent creativity”, “planning strength” and for being a “regional agency with London clients and stakes”.

McCann-Erickson Manchester arrived in second place with praise for its “business performance” and for being a “business machine” and CheethamBellJWT was voted into third place on the Peer Poll in a year that has clearly seen CheethamBellJWT rise in the eyes of its rivals being praised for its “credible and perceptive creativity” and “track record, post-merger”.

Such was the respect for both McCann-Erickson Manchester and CheethamBellJWT that the agencies were also secured commendations, again behind BDH\TBWA, in the North West Agency of the Year table.

Meanwhile, Poulter Partners took home the accolade of Yorkshire Agency of the Year, with commendations handed to Brahm and Advertising Principles.

North East stalwart Robson Brown took home the crown of North East Agency of the Year for the third year running, with fellow nominee Different earning a commendation.

The final regional winner was Cogent, which took home the Midlands Agency of the Year trophy after beating fellow Midlands players Wallis Tomlinson and McCann-Erickson Central on votes.

Poulter Partners was the surprise winner of this year’s Financial Poll. The agency, which didn’t feature in the 2001 financial table at all, this year leapt up the board to take the top spot. The result is testament to an agency that has, in the last year, brought on board business from Midland Mainline, The Department for Education and Skills and Yorkshire Forward. Second place goes once again to Robson Brown, which has now taken the runner-up prize three years in a row, no doubt with a slight gnashing of teeth.

Barrington Johnson Lorains sits firmly in third place on the 2002 table, refusing to budge from last year’s placing, while Manchester’s Huet & Company pulls off a dramatic climb from thirteenth place last year to fourth in 2002.

From dramatic climbs to staying steady, McCann Erickson Manchester again scooped the award as Retail Agency of the Year. Continuing work for clients such as CP Hart as well as a solid new business performance that has brought on board names the likes of SCS have combined to keep the Bonis Hall tribe in an elevated position amongst peers. In fact, the agency was mentioned on almost every form returned.

Magnetic North was named as this year’s Agency Ones to Watch. Manchester’s Magnetic North has already succeeded in building up a sound reputation for its web and multimedia work and now seems set to move into advertising.

In addition to rewarding companies as a whole the Suit Awards takes pride in crediting individuals within the industry that peers feel have done a particularly stellar job over the past twelve months.

The first such was Sue Little of McCann-Erickson Manchester who picked up Agency Head of the Year. Little took the reins at McCann-Erickson Manchester last year, following the departure of Brian Child, and the industry has subsequently been impressed by her sound business sense and the fact she has continued to lead the agency from strength to strength.

Also nominated for the award were Martin Anderson of BDH\TBWA, Steve Rodgers of Connectpoint and last year’s winner, David Bell of CheethamBellJWT.

Though Bell lost out on the Agency Head category Katrina Michel of CheethamBellJWT took the Agency Planner of the Year award home, after fending off competition from Darren Hawkins at Poulter Partners. Over the last year Michel has worked on a portfolio of accounts that has included Reckitt Benkiser, The Accident Group, Manchester Evening News and Salton.

Michel wasn’t the only CheethamBellJWT employee to go home with an award this year, either. Colleague Gillian Nelis was named as Agency Account Handler of the Year, winning out over a number of other nominees. Nelis has spent the past year handling accounts for Adams, the company behind Halls Soothers and Mentho Lyptus, the Co-op, Manchester Evening News and United Utilities.

Anne-Marie Glennon of Barrington Johnson Lorains took home the Production Manager of the Year award, emerging ahead of Neil Starkey of Radford Advertising, Peter Garnett of Poulter Partners and Nigel Wilson of CheethamBellJWT – all of whom received nominations.

As with last year’s Suit Awards, The Marketeer thought it only fitting to reward not only the agencies but also the clients themselves.

Despite Manchester Evening News, Commonwealth Games and WKD all receiving nominations in this category, the award of Client of the Year was handed to PZ Cussons. The company was nominated by agencies mostly for its successful rejuvenation of the Imperial Leather brand and this, combined with a continued commitment to appointing both Northern creative and media agencies, tipped the balance in its favour.

In the last twelve months Cussons has appointed BDH\TBWA to a number of creative projects as well as shifting its massive £8m media account to Mediaedge:cia Manchester.

Last year the Lifetime Achievement Award went to Ray Sale, who has since, sadly, passed away. This year the award was presented to Bryn Butler, group chief executive of BDH\TBWA. Butler joined the agency in 1980 as an account manager, and has since worked across most of the agency’s key accounts, as well as playing a key role in the strategic direction of the company. He was praised on one returned questionnaire as being “low profile, yet a big hitter”, a description The Marketeer felt summed him up pretty well.

Following on from the agency folk were the categories rewarding the North’s media buying fraternity.

With so many major accounts being brought to the North over the last year, naming a single Media Buying Point of the Year was never going to be easy.

Mediacom North and Mediaedge: cia both received commendations for their performances over the past year, but it was Mediavest Manchester that took home the top title, for the second year running.

Mediavest has had a blistering year of new business and expansion, which has included the building up of its television department and the winning of the gigantic £29m Alliance & Leicester account. The agency was praised on the majority of questionnaires for its growth over the past 12 months combined with an extensive knowledge of the marketplace. One questionnaire fittingly described the company simply as “hungry”. It will be interesting to see what the bolstered and confident agency can do over the next year.

While Mediaedge:cia Manchester was just pipped to the post for the Buying Point of the Year accolade, the agency’s managing director, Mick Style, received special credit. Style was named Media Buying Agency Head of the Year, leaving fellow nominee Andy Jeal, of Mediavest Manchester, with a commendation.

Style has succeeded in impressing his peers not only by steering his agency through a dark time, growing new business and building his profile within the marketplace, but also by being one hell of a nice guy too. Style has more than filled the gap left by former managing director Steve Blakeman, as well as justifying the faith that his friend and mentor, the late Ray Sale, had in him.

The Mediaedge:cia successes didn’t end there either, with Cherry Jackson, head of press at the agency, being named Media Buyer of the Year. Jackson has spent the last twelve months working across a range of accounts, including Time Computers, Pilkington Glass, Crown Paints and Fruit of the Loom. On a personal level, she has also proven her mettle with a 190ft abseil, which, she maintains, is “less of a challenge than some media owner meetings.”

The fact that Jackson was one of three buyers from Mediaedge:cia shortlisted also speaks volumes for the respect the agency commands.

The final media category, Media Independent Ones to Watch, was won by Thinkmedia. The agency was formed at the beginning of this year by Mark Hodkinson, for three years the MD of Universal McCann Manchester, and the industry waits with interest to see how he will fare at the helm of his own company.

Lastly, the Suit Awards once again rewarded those unpraised front-line soldiers themselves: the receptionists. This year Sue Johnson of Barrington Johnson Lorains was named Receptionist of the Year. Johnson is the friendly personality equally adept at greeting both clients and colleagues to the agency, and over the phone exudes warmth and friendliness that is a credit to her agency.

So, all in all 2002 has been a strong year for the regions’ agencies and media. The next 12 months will, hopefully, see this continue, with agencies expanding into new areas and breakaway teams aiming to establish themselves. The determination and drive are there, but it remains to be seen whether anyone will be able to knock BDH\TBWA and Mediavest from their hard-earned and well-deserved top spots.


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