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North of England Design Consultancy of the Year

By The Drum, Administrator

April 27, 2007 | 8 min read

The North of England Design Consultancy of the Year, in essence, acts as a barometer for success – or otherwise – of the design industry in the north of England. And, as ever, the margins between success and failure are slim.

It polls both those that work in the industry and those that the industry serves, to judge who is out-performing the competition financially and in terms of service.

This year there were three main areas for consideration. Firstly the Financial Poll. All entering agencies were asked to fill in detailed financial results for their agency, which were then compiled by accountants Baker Tilly to produce a league table of financial performance.

The second element of the review was the Client Poll. Research agency mruk compiled an extensive program of research, polling up to 1500 clients over a three-month period to reveal their views on the agencies that they work with.

The third part of the research was a Peer Poll, questioning competitors and peers in the industry on who they believe to be the outstanding design agency in the north of England.

These three areas of research were added to by the One to Watch category and Managing Director of the Year polls.

The research proves that the competition gets no less fierce and the quest for new business continues... as does the quest to keep good design at the heart of every clients strategy.

financial poll

Baker Tilly has constructed the table on five aspects of financial and business performance, which have been calculated and contrasted across the 25 consultancies. The five aspects are as follows:

– Design turnover for 2006

– Design turnover growth in the year

– Design fee income growth in the year

– Revenue per design staff employed

– Revenue per design client

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

The consultancy that tops the financial poll this year is Creative Marketing Services (CMS). It performed very strongly in the Design Turnover Growth criteria as well as in the Revenue per Design Staff section, ousting The Chase, last year’s Financial Poll table-toppers.

In second place was Guerilla Communications, with the highest Revenue per Design Staff and a strong Design Fee Growth.

Love Creative climbed the table to third place, with a strong set of results across the board.

By using a mix of criteria to judge the consultancies, it will hopefully provide some balance to the overall result.

As in past years, there are wide variations in all of the criteria. This year, 14 consultancies have managed to achieve design fee growth and 16 have managed to achieve design turnover growth year on year.

So once again it demonstrates there is a fair bit of business out there to drive for and win.

The other information on revenue per design staff and revenue per design client clearly demonstrates the vast difference there is in the nature of the business that each consultancy is undertaking. This is exemplified well in the Revenue per Design Client rankings, with the Gratterpalm Group on £244,545 per design client and The Consult making £4,778 per design client.

Out of the companies that entered, the results highlight that:

ïThe consultancies taking part in the financial poll

employ 228 design staff – an increase of 20 on 2005. The number of support staff employed by these companies totals 146 – an increase of 51.

ïThe combined total of clients is 714 – this is an increase

for the consultancies of 77 clients.

ï Seven agencies have a design turnover of two million,

and a further four have exceeded one million. This year Elmwood has the highest recorded turnover of 6.1 million.

Some other interesting facts show that:

ï16 companies have shown growth in design turnover

and 14 companies have achieved growth in design fee income.

ïRevenue per design staff was over 200K for seven


ïRevenue per design client is over 50K for eleven

agencies, with Gratterpalm Group reporting the highest revenue per design client of 244K.

Other interesting snippets from the survey include:

ïThe average design turnover from the companies that

supplied their financial information is 1.5m

ïThe average revenue per design staff is 170K

ïThe average revenue per design client is 56K

This all goes to show that the design industry in the north is growing, employing more people and working with more clients.

Client Satisfaction Poll

The Drum annually commissions mruk research to conduct an extensive survey of up to 1500 clients, on how they rate their marketing services providers in the north of England.

This process takes up to three months and is conducted under strict market research guidelines and the results are verified by mruk.

Respondents rated agencies across a number of dimensions including account handling, creativity, value for money, strategic thinking and overall professionalism.

The full research helps The Drum compile the Recommended Agencies Guide and is now forming the structure for the Recommended Agencies Register.

For the purposes of the review, The Drum looked specifically at the design companies who featured in the research and have ranked them in relation to each other.

As ever, it was closely contested.

This year it was Reform Creative that topped the client research, taking over from Vivid – last year’s winners, who slide to tenth.

SUMO made second place with Glorious Creative in third. Making up the top five were Creative Marketing Services and Lake in fourth and fifth place respectively.

one to watch

Our research also asked agencies to name an up and coming agency as this years ‘One to Watch’.

While a number of agencies received nominations for this award, the winner was a young design agency that has caught the eye of its peers for both the work it produces and its approach to business. A relative newcomer, this agency has regularly competed against and beaten some of the region\'s established teams.

In the last year, the firm has won briefs from the International Council of Museums, Experien and the Mines Advisory Group. However, its biggest win came in January of this year, when the firm held off a whole host of the North West agencies to become the creative supplier for Manchester City Council\'s full programme of events for 07/08. The winner of this year\'s One to Watch was Mark Studio.

managing director of the year

We also asked respondents to rate who they thought was worthy of the title Managing Director of the Year. And this year was a shared award to the management team at Brahm – Julie Hanson and John Morgan.

Replacing last year’s winner of this title, Alistair Sim of Love Creative, Hanson and Morgan were praised for leading a company that has grown its business over the last two years, making it more profitable while working hard to raise its profile in the market place and giving the company a clear focus and direction.

peer Poll

The Peer Poll is always a highly competitive area of research and is intended to guage the views of those that work in the industry as to who they believe is leading the way in the business at present – producing the best work, working with some of the best clients and running the most successful agency.

A number of agencies were again voted for, but one stood head and shoulders above the rest at the top of the table.

For its “consistency”; “success”; “style”; “substance”; “respect for brand identity”; “producing exciting work across a whole host of sectors” and “having a great business strategy that has gained it high calibre clients and established it as a truly national and international player”, the winner of the 2007 Peer Poll was Elmwood.

north of england design

consultancy of the year

To be the best overall design consultancy of the year, the agency must impress its peers, perform well financially, and achieve recognition from its clients. Only agencies that have been rated in each poll can be considered as a finalist for The Drum’s North of England Design Consultancy of the Year.

This year, the honour went to Love Creative. A company that produces consistently creative and imaginative work, Love knows its market place, understand its clients and continues to attract great new ones. The team has a steadfast, uncompromising approach and the MD is passionate about the industry, and works tirelessly to raise the company profile by producing new, better and experimental work.

Joint runners-up were last year’s winners Elmwood and Newcastle-based Sumo, with Glorious Creative, Dinosaur and Propaganda in joint fourth. Making up the top five was Thompson Design.

Thanks to Baker Tilly for compiling financial results; mruk research for the client satisfaction research; and our print sponsors ProCo.


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