The Lunch Bunch

By The Drum, Administrator

May 2, 2005 | 8 min read

The great and the good of the Northern design industry were in attendance last month at Room Restaurant, in Leeds, to find out who was the worthy winner of the much-coveted Hatstand and the title of Robert Horne North of England Design Consultancy of the Year. This year a record 26 agencies entered into the awards, which goes to show that things are looking up for the industry scene.

After an impressive meal, and an introduction from Robert Horne’s Philippa Charlton, last year’s winners Phil Dean and Ian Thompson, of Thompson, gave an informative speech on their mission to rebrand the city of Leeds.

But, then it came down to the nitty gritty of the day and to find the winners of our polls. This year, research was conducted by research firm MRUK and accountant Baker Tilly helping Adline to conclude who were leading the pack in the following categories: Peer Poll, Client Satisfaction Poll, Creative Poll and Financial Poll. From these results, Adline was then able to put together a top ten finalists table to find the overall winner.

Picking up the top gong this year was Elmwood – achieving this feat by performing consistently throughout every single poll. Both, managing director, Jayne Barrett and, chief executive, Jonathon Sands have proved that experience can really count in this industry, and the opportunity to take new risks and adventures has really paid off. Elmwood, which has over the past year opened an office in Melbourne, Australia, in the process gaining Cole Meyers – one of the largest retailers in Australia – as its client, has certainly gone from strength to strength.

Only time, however will tell of what success Elmwood will make following, creative director, Richard Scholey’s decision to move over to Australia to head up the new Elmwood down under offering. So, onwards to the categories.

Client Satisfaction Poll

This year the research for our Client Satisfaction Poll was done as part of a larger project to create a book of Recommended Agencies. We invited research company MRUK to speak to over 1,200 clients to supply information on several hundred marketing services providers to the industry, outside of London. Respondents rated agencies across a number of dimensions, including account handling, creativity, value for money and overall professionalism.

Agencies that were recommended by their clients have now been included in the book, which has just been published, and in this short time, three of the agencies in the book have been invited by major clients to pitch.

The guide was sent to more than 1,200 clients, providing them with a valuable tool for short-listing marketing service providers. Wilsomslow-based Faith Creative came up trumps in this poll – scoring top marks on a variety of the areas that clients were questioned on – in particular its design talent – showing great strengths in B2B and corporate identity. Clients for the agency include Chess Telecom, Jane Asher and Forum of Private Business.

Peer Poll

Once again The Chase have proven to be the most popular design consultancy within the industry, having now won this poll for the past three years. Popularity and consistently good work – illustrated in the four gold and four silver gongs picked up in November at the Roses Design Awards – for the Manchester-based agency means that it will need to be a very tough agency to fight off the competition next year. Good luck to you all.

Creative Poll

After giving an informative and entertaining speech at the start of the festivities, Thompson was pleased to walk away with the all-important Creative Poll. Having picked up the Hatstand last year, Phil Dean and Ian Thompson haven’t rested on their laurels and this award certainly consolidates on the work they have completed in the past 12 months. The agency in recent times has gone from strength to strength, and its appointment to rebrand Leeds means that great things are expected from the agency in the next year.

Best Piece of Work

On the creative aspect of the survey, as well as asking our judges to identify the best portfolio overall, we also asked them to decide what they deemed to be the Best Piece of Work. Three pieces were nominated: Love for Office Book; True North and Danny Mycock for My Cock; and Elmwood for knife mannufacturers Richardson. For the second year running Elmwood was judged to have produced the best piece of work in the past 12 months. Our judges were impressed by \"the identity and applications for Richardson in producing an outstanding body of work. The spiral bound design guidelines were a detailed and beautifully crafted piece. The careful detail and the inventive applications just flowed from page to page.\"

Design Head of the Year

Adline asked all consultancies entering who they thought was worthy of this all important title. The winner this year is a person who not only maintains a consistent high standard of work within his company, but also continues to attract and retain a great team of people and to maintain long lasting client relations. For the second year running, Jonathon Sands wins the title of Agency Head of the Year. Managing director of Elmwood, Jayne Barrett, was on hand to collect the award as Sands is currently in Oz setting up the Mebourne office.

One to Watch

This award goes to a firm set up in 2002 by two of the most popular and respected designers. Tom Shaughnessy and Mark Ross have established themselves as an innovative, dedicated and pioneering pair, capable of producing beautiful design solutions across a variety of mediums and worthy recipients of this title.

Small Design Consultancy of the Year

So that the larger companies can’t steal all the limelight, special mention should go the agencies that disprove the age-old saying of ‘bigger is better’. In fact disproving this theory entirely – as mentioned previously – Faith Creative has excellent design talent, outstanding strengths in areas of its business and the client feedback has been exceptional. This agency has also acquired, by its clients, a certain, important, characteristic - its willingness \"to go that extra mile\".

Financial Poll

Baker Tilly constructed the all-important table on six aspects of financial and business performance, which have been calculated and contrasted across the 26 consultancies. The six aspects are as follows:

1. Design turnover for 2004

2. Design turnover growth in the year

3. Design fee income growth in the year

4. Revenue per design staff employed

5. Revenue per design client

6. Growth in number of design clients

Each consultancy is ranked in the above aspects and then an average score is arrived at for the final table positions. Where any information is not supplied, the consultancy is unplaced, and there are four consultancies this applies to this year.

The number of entries is up significantly, from the 20 of last year to 26 this year, and topping the table is Fanatic. Its strongest performance is in revenue per design client followed by its performance in revenue per design staff employed. It also performed well in the other categories. It was followed by last year’s winner Home, which topped the table in the growth in number of design clients and also performed strongly in the other growth criteria. It is always good to see that a strong performer in the previous year managed to continue its strong performance.

In third place was Thompson, which last year was placed sixth and has obviously continued to perform strongly particularly topping the table in design turnover growth in the year.

When comparing the rankings from 2003 to 2004 there is a clear picture of just how volatile the marketplace is for all of the consultancies, and how difficult it is for them to consistently perform strongly in all of the above criteria. The total market is growing, with only three companies not having any design turnover growth in the year and five companies only showing a decline in fee income in the year. This is also borne out by the growth in number of design clients, with only three agencies showing a reduction in the number of design clients in the year. So there is obviously an increasing amount of design business out there for all the consultancies to go after.

Last year, eight out of the 20 consultancies had either a nil or negative growth in clients in the year. This year, it is seven out of 26. So, once again, perhaps some have focused on client service and profitability of the client base rather than seek to grow clients, no doubt on the advice of their accountant. But at the end of the day, growth is only one aspect of a business, more important is profitable growth and even more important is cash flow, and ensuring that businesses are managed on a sound financial basis.


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