School Reports 2014: Walker Media

Marks & Spencer
Marks & Spencer

Score: 7  Last year: 7

Phil Georgiadis, the Walker Media chairman, and Simon Davis, the chief executive, spent much of 2013 locked in secret negotiations with Steve King, the global chief executive of ZenithOptimedia, about a possible sale. In November, ZenithOptimedia bought a majority stake in the agency for £36 million.

The scale of the deal and its complexity (due to the fact that M&C Saatchi was not totally selling up) meant everything took much longer than had been hoped. But it looks like a win-win deal: providing Walker Media with the opportunity to be part of a global network; giving cash to M&C Saatchi shareholders; and bolstering ZenithOptimedia’s ailing UK operation (as well as riling the Saatchi brothers’ nemesis, Sir Martin Sorrell, at the same time).

While the deal inevitably took up a huge amount of management time, Walker Media didn’t take its foot entirely off the new-business pedal. It managed to bring in £75 million in new billings, including the e-cigarette brand Njoy, and Zapp, the mobile payments system due to launch in 2014. Other wins included some of Boots’ digital media and the animal charity Blue Cross – both M&C Saatchi Group wins. The only loss was Fiskars, the home and garden tools-maker, which moved its planning and buying back to Germany. Walker Media also kept a close hold on Marks & Spencer and avoided the Dixons Retail Group review extending into media.

With an incredibly stable team, strengthened by the arrival of Anthony Swede as the head of planning in January 2013, Walker Media is in a good place. In 2014, the agency needs to build on its achievements and demonstrate what the ZenithOptimedia deal was all about by bringing in some top new international clients.

How Walker Media rates itself: 8

Walker Media's year in a Tweet: 2013 was a watershed for Walker Media. Record new business, near perfect retention and a new global network. Not bad for a 16 year old!

Walker Media
Type of agency Media
Company ownership Publicis Groupe and M&C Saatchi
Key personnel Phil Georgiadis chairman
Simon Davis chief executive
Nicki Hare vice-chairman
Jon Horrocks head of investment
Anthony Swede head of planning
Nielsen billings 2013 £231m
Nielsen billings 2012 £240m
Declared income n/s
Total accounts at year end 34
Accounts won 9 (biggest: Njoy)
Accounts lost 1 (Fiskars)
Traditional 81%
Digital 13%
Other 6%
Number of staff 130 (+8%)

Score key: 9 Outstanding  8 Excellent  7 Good  6 Satisfactory  5 Adequate  4 Below average  3 Poor  2 A year to forget  1 Survival in question

Footnote: *indicates where agencies claim the corporate governance constraints of the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation.

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