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Robert Horne Design Consultancy Review

By The Drum | Administrator

March 10, 2005 | 8 min read

Financial and Client Polls

More than 100 members of the Scottish design industry gathered two weeks ago at Glasgow’s Oran Mor to hear the results of The Drum’s research into the Scottish design industry. As in years gone by, there were four main polls on which all agencies were rated - peer perception, financial results, client satisfaction and their creative output.

A wide range of agencies featured in these polls as illustrated in the tables over the page, but it was ultimately the consultancy that scored the highest number of points across these four polls that would capture the Robert Horne Scottish Design Consultancy of the Year hat stand trophy.

In order to identify the consultancy that would take home the title of Scottish Design Consultancy of the Year, points were allocated to consultancies depending on where they had finished in the four main polls and once all these points had been allocated they were totalled. After this process Stand was deemed to be the consultancy that had performed the most consistently across the four main polls, just managing to beat Third Eye Design to the number one spot.

Stand’s Stuart Gilmour, Mark Stephenson and Paul Lambert were on hand at Oran Mor to collect their trophy and the associated pats on their respective backs, which went on long into the evening. For a more detailed look at the success of Stand see page 18.

In second place, for the second year running, is Third Eye, with Navyblue rising one place on last year, from fourth to third. Last year’s overall winner, Elmwood, is a very close fourth, with 999 Design and Tayburn tying for fifth.

Hookson features in seventh place, and inseparable in eighth are D8, Pointsize, PRM, Redpath and Traffic.

Here, in more detail, is a break down of the individual polls with their accompanying tables printed over the page.

The Peer Poll

Last year’s winner of the Peer Poll, Nevis does not feature this time around. Instead it is Elmwood that is regarded by its peers as the top agency in Scotland. Elmwood came runner-up in this category last year.

Stand rise from joint third last year to fill the second place slot this time around.

Third Eye Design improve on last year’s seventh place to rise to third in the eyes of its peers, with Navyblue also climbing high from ninth to fourth. Graphic Partners shoots into the poll this year in fifth place, having not featured last year.

The Client Satisfaction Poll

The Client Satisfaction Poll was handled a little differently this year. The results used in this part of the process came from The Drum’s soon-to-be-published Recommended Agency Guide, which is a publication based upon research into marketing services agencies amongst their client bases. All the research was carried out independently among more than 1,000 clients and from their responses to agencies we were able to draw the following conclusions.

Hookson topped this year’s Client Satisfaction Poll, having finished seventh last year. D8 was, perhaps, the most impressive mover in the table, arriving in second place, after not featuring in last year’s Client Poll at all.

D8 was closely followed in third place by Glasgow-based Traffic, which again did not feature last year.

Making up the remaining top five agencies in the client poll are Corporate PRM, which remains unchanged in fourth place, and Redpath, which moves up three places from eighth to fifth on last year

The Creative Poll

For the Creative Poll, each agency is invited to enter a portfolio of its work from the last year to be considered by a panel of judges. This year the panel consisted of Bill Green of Funnel Creative, Alan Herron of The Chase, Liz Birkbeck from Bubble and Grant Windridge from Hemisphere. It was Elmwood that rose to the top of the Creative Poll this year, knocking Navyblue from the top spot. Shooting up the table also is Stand, from fifth place to second, closely followed by 999, which did not feature in the creative table last year. Last year’s winners, Navyblue is in fourth, with Tayburn in fifth.

Best Individual Piece of Work

Each year the judges are asked to choose their favourite individual pieces of design from the portfolios entered. With Elmwood topping the Creative Poll, it was clear that the judges were impressed with the agency’s portfolio. They also selected two items from Elmwood’s portfolio to feature in the Best Individual Piece of Work category too, with the Edinburgh College of Art Research Book being voted as the best. Stand was also highlighted for its Young Scot Annual Report, as was Freight for its book, The Knuckle End.

MD of the Year

As part of the research for the Robert Horne Design Consultancy of the Year awards The Drum asked Scottish agencies who they thought was the best design managing director. The winner had a very busy year. As well as moving to a new custom-built studio, he brought in a number of new staff and clients, including account wins from outside Scotland. This year he has also doubled his consultancy’s turnover, from 2003, to break the £1million barrier for the first time in the company’s ten-year history.

The winner of Best Design Managing Director, taking the ‘crown’ from last year’s winner, Douglas Alexander of Navyblue, is Mark Noe of Third Eye Design.

One to Watch

Of course, as well as rewarding consultancies that have reached the top of the tree, this event is about identifying those who look set to follow. As part of the Peer Poll, The Drum asked the industry which firms they believe are worth watching. Our One To Watch upped the ante by appointing respected designer Jason Dobson from Hookson, while continuing to produce some diverse yet strong creative work. This year, the One to Watch is Contagious. (Coincidentally, Stand, the overall winner of this year’s Robert Horne Design Consultancy of the Year, scooped the One the Watch prize last year. So things bode well for Contagious.)

Financial Poll

Commentary by Baker Tilly

We have constructed the table on five aspects of financial and business performance, which have been calculated and contrasted across the 31 consultancies. The five aspects are as follows: design turnover for 2004; design turnover growth in the year; design fee income growth in the year; revenue per design staff employed; and revenue per design client.

Each consultancy is ranked on the five aspects and then the average score is arrived at for the final table positions.

The consultancy that tops the Financial Poll this year is Third Eye Design, which secured first place after being ranked highest in design fee growth and being highly placed in the other criteria. Having come ninth in the poll last year, Third Eye has obviously worked hard, driven its business forward and achieved a great deal in the past year to deservedly secure first place.

Navyblue come in in second place this year, improving on last year’s performance of 12th. The agency tops the turnover criterion and is close second in the revenue per design client criterion. Again, it has also performed strongly in the other criteria and deservedly come in second.

In third place is Stand, which was not ranked in last year’s poll. While not topping any of the criteria, it performed strongly in most of them, with the exception of revenue per design client where it is placed 20th for that criterion. While the top three are relatively close in overall performance, there is a gap opening up below them and, as can be seen from the tables, there are wide variations in all of the criteria. While six consultancies had declined in design turnover, only two suffer a decline in design fee income and with some impressive growth figures in design fee income, there is obviously a fair bit of business out there for everyone to drive for and win.

The most striking feature of the table is how last year’s top performers are missing from the top five. While putting in creditable performances, the criteria we use is significantly weighted to growth, both of design turnover and design fee income, and this obviously has a significant impact on the consultancies that are entering the financial poll. Perhaps the view is that turnover is vanity and profit is sanity.

We look forward to next year’s results with interest.

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