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Wind up the willows

By The Drum | Administrator

October 24, 2003 | 10 min read

Joe McAspurn of Arc

Direct Marketing Agency of the Year

It has hardly been one of the most stellar times in the direct marketing industry over the past twelve months. Gone are the days of heady optimism and long lunches. Now the reality that had beset the advertising industry has fallen upon the direct marketing industry, with one or two casualties. Stalwarts such as Stewart Robertson and Gary Smith have now left the building, while the industry has lost John Young to Amsterdam and Oneagency has shut up shop and moved into The Leith Agency.

But there have been some successes this year. Arc, Story, WWAV Rapp Collins and Navigator have all been setting the scene alight with new business wins and are managing to keep things ticking over on an even keel. Here are the winners of the Direct Marketing Agency of the Year, along with some of the industry leaders’ thoughts about where DM can go from here.

Overall Winners

This was a closely fought race with many of the big boys chasing the elusive prize. However, there could only be one winner and that title goes to Story. The company, which has been in business for only eighteen months, has been successful from the moment it opened its doors. With clients ranging from the Clydesdale Bank, Direct Holidays and Ardberg malt whisky, to name but a few, Sue and Dave Mullen have proved their doubters wrong and shown just how strong a force they can actually be.

The Peer Poll

The winner in this category was Story. The company has made a huge impact on the direct marketing scene, going from strength to strength, and many within the industry are ready to give credit where credit is due.

In joint second place were the victors of last year’s poll, Navigator and WWAV Rapp Collins, who managed to move up one place. Although there have been troubles from some of the other companies that came out of the Faulds Group buyout over two years ago, Navigator has prospered, with high-profile wins and a strong turnover; signals that it has not all been doom and gloom within the industry. Marketing Advantage was ranked in fourth place, while Arc and Leith’s direct marketing arm managed to jostle into joint fifth place.

Managing Director of the Year

Last year the winner of this category was Andy Carolan, who had successfully masterminded a management buyout with the rest of his directors, and this year history appears to be repeating itself, with the winner of this category managing a start-up in some of the toughest times that this industry has seen.

The Darwinian prophecy of only the strongest of the species surviving is extremely relative to the winner – will Sue Mullen please stand up to collect her prize. Joe McAspurn, managing director of Arc, said simply of his reason for nominating her that “she sets the standards”.

New Business Winners

It is all well and good having a stable full of clients in your files, but winning new business in this stormy climate is something that must be applauded.

This year is the same as last, with Andy Carolan and his team picking up points, and winning the category, for not only the quantity of wins but also the quality.

In the past year the company has added ScottishPower, Dumfries and Galloway Tourist Board, Britannic Asset Management, Scottish Enterprise and BMI British Midlands to its books.

Financial Poll

This is the most important part of the review to many – assessing the cold hard cash that is coming into the agency. Details supplied included the agency’s revenue for the year – that is to say, the gross profit that the agency has achieved over the past 12 months – along with revenue for the previous financial year, the number of direct marketing staff the company currently employs and the number of clients the company currently has on its books.

Marketing Advantage DDB was the winner this year, hot-footing it from its third place in last year’s poll. Buoyed by good fortune in the new business stakes, it has managed to increase its revenue by 9.8 per cent to £1.68m from last year. Navigator managed to leapfrog from fifth place last year to a highly respectable second place. In third place were overall winners Story, while SBS and Metis battled it out for fourth and fifth spots respectively.

Most Creative DM Agency

One of the most important aspects when producing a direct marketing campaign is that it needs to be visually stimulating and highly creative. The winner this year is Story.

Creative director Dave Mullen and his team have now been offering a high standard of work to their clients for the past eighteen months, and many who were polled on this topic believed the agency offers a great deal, creatively speaking.

Nick Price, managing director of SBS, said of the company, “Dave Mullen’s work is generally excellent”, while Andy Carolan of Navigator noted “the company has been strong from the start, taking the ‘Oneagency’ reputation with them”.

One To Watch

After a year that has seen many walking away from the industry in Scotland, along with a high-profile closure, it is refreshing to see that there is at least one agency that is willing to take a risk and start up even in the toughest of times. Leith’s direct marketing arm, which was born out of the now defunct Oneagency, was named by many as the one agency to watch in the next twelve months. With clients Velux, Standard Life and George Wimpey Homes, the division, which is headed up by Lisa Ferrara, should feature further up the table in years to come.

Sales Promotion Review of the Year

As with the direct marketing industry, the past twelve months of the sales promotion industry has been somewhat tough to say the least.

From the start of the year, there have been twists and turns along the bumpy road, ranging from the departure of the creative design team at BD-ntwk to the recent rumoured demise of KLP in Scotland. Along the way, companies have closed down and set up – Buddha shut earlier this year and, like a phoenix from the flames, Kommando, fronted by Mark Evans, rose from its ashes. And the final news to emerge within recent weeks is that industry stalwart Ward Mulvey has left the hallowed turf of Draft WorldWide to venture out on his own. It is fair to say that there has been never a dull moment in the world of sales promotion over the past twelve months.

So, on to the winners of this year’s poll. The questionnaires were sent out to all agencies in Scotland and the responses make up part of the final result. Editorial discretion was also used in part and, since the numbers of agencies that actually supplied monetary information was down on previous years, sadly, this poll had to be dropped from the running. All other polls, however, remain the same as usual. Now on to the winners.

Overall Winner

The past year has been a difficult one for everyone, and those that are still standing after the rough ride deserve all the praise possible. But there has to be one overall winner and that accolade went to last year’s runner-up, Draft WorldWide.

The company has been dealt a blow with the announcement that Ward Mulvey has left the company to start up his own agency but, with new business wins that include Kronenbourg, Unilever, Edrington, Reebok, Braus and Bliss, the agency has managed to go from strength to strength this year. The company has also seen an increase of over 16 per cent on revenue since last year in some of the toughest of market conditions.

Peer Poll

Over the past twelve months BD-ntwk has gone through major changes – the entire design team, headed up by Stewart Gilmour, left the company at the end of last year to set up design agency Stand. But this has not held back the agency, and the win in this category is testament to the work that they are currently doing. BD-ntwk has managed to keep hold of its position as the leader of the pack, being voted by its peers as the best of the bunch. New creative director Derek Sneddon has put together a strong new design team and many respondents of the poll have pointed out the work that BD-ntwk created for Lynx as being highly effective.

In second place was Arc, followed by newcomers Brand Ambassadors. Overall winners Draft WorldWide were placed in fourth position and newcomers to the sales promotion industry Kommando managed to squeeze into the fifth spot.

SP Managing Director of the Year

With a 16 per cent increase in revenue from last year, an additional six new clients on the books, and employing five extra staff this year alone, due to the increased workload, it is easy to see why Draft’s Ward Mulvey was nominated as MD of the Year. Mulvey may have surprised many with the news that he has left the company, but no doubt all within the industry will be awaiting his next move, as he strikes out alone. Only time can tell if the success he achieved at Draft can be achieved this time around.

Financial Poll and New Business Wins

Unfortunately, in this category few companies were able to supply to the Drum the relative information that was needed to come up with a top five, and therefore there can be no winner in this category. However, it is fair to say that Draft WorldWide, BD-ntwk and Arc should get special mention for the work that they have put into the business over the past year. With wins for Draft including Kronenbourg and Unilever to name but a few, and BD-ntwk adding VisitScotland, Carling and Grampian Country Food Group to its books, it is fair to say that both companies are thriving when it comes to new business wins.

Arc has won significant business in the past twelve months, including Belhaven Best, Maxxium UK, Sourz, Whyte and MacKay, and Abbey National, worth a total value of £700,000.

Ones to Watch

And so on to the final category in this sales promotion poll. The past year saw the closure of Buddha and the opening by former employee of the company, Mark Evans, of new firm Kommando. The company has gone from strength to strength since it started earlier this year, with account wins including Hutchison 3G, Quality Mark and Batchelors. The company sees things progressing nicely in the next twelve months, with Evans having a few more cunning stunts up his sleeve for clients.


Above: (l-r) every picture tells a story from Story, this year’s Direct Marketing Agency of the Year.

Above: (l-r) Claire Hardy of BD-ntwk, Andy Carolan of Navigator Responsive Advertising, Alan Nicols and Joanna Gadd of Metis and Joe McAspurn of Arc.


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