Top 300 Agencies: School Reports. (Part 3 of 5)

campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 24 February 2006 12:00AM

INITIATIVE

Type of agency Media Company ownership Interpublic subsidiary Key personnel Jerry Hill group chief executive, UK; joint chief operating officer, Europe Gary Birtles managing director Danny Donovan deputy managing director Tony Manwaring communications planning director Nielsen Media Research billings 2005 £401m Nielsen Media Research billings 2004 £517m Total accounts year end 51 Accounts won 11 (biggest: Bernard Matthews) Accounts lost 4 (biggest: Elizabeth Arden) TV 51.9% Press 25.9% Out of home 8.9% Radio 5.0% Below the line 0% Other 8.3% Number of staff 163

After a grim 2004 in which, and do not say it too loudly, Initiative lost its flagship Unilever account, the agency rallied a little. But just when it must have thought it was turning the corner, its Interpublic parent announced a controversial global cleansing policy, which involved returning rebates to clients. Almost immediately, Initiative found itself in the spotlight when IPG announced a £3 million rebate to Tesco, after an audit of the books at Initiative and its sister agency, Lowe.

New-business gains of around £13 million hardly set the world alight but the agency did not lose further big chunks of business. Wins included Samsonite, Bernard Matthews, easyGroup and Storck International.

There were ups and downs on the key Orange account - winning media planning from Naked but losing online planning and buying to i-level.

The agency carried out a restructure in June to put digital media closer to the heart of its activity. Danny Donovan was promoted to deputy managing director to grow digital activity. The agency tried to hire Kirsti Wilson as its director of digital, but she joined Media.Com instead, so Initiative turned to Ben Christie, the former director of PHDiQ. Robert Ditcham, the agency's commercial director, left.

Initiative also invested in a ten-strong direct division called ID. Coupled with heavy investment in planning, this at least gives Initiative more of a cutting edge.

On the whole, 2005 was a solid year for the chief executive, Jerry Hill, who, late in the year took on a broader European role, and whose London team now needs to step up to the plate. Their main task must be to crank up the new-business machine and make a bigger splash in the market if the "U" word is really to be forgotten.

Score last year: 2

Score this year: 4

How Initiative rates itself: 8

"Since last spring, the agency has taken on a new direction. New structures, management, people, culture and craft skills have been aligned to the new reality of a very different communications landscape driven by digitisation in its broadest sense. New assignments from existing clients plus new business from Bernard Matthews, easyGroup, Credit Suisse and Samsonite underline our new sense of purpose."

JOSHUA

Type of agency Direct marketing Company ownership WPP subsidiary Key personnel Peter Thompson chairman, chief executive Nick Spindler managing director Rod Clausen joint executive creative director Christian Clark joint executive creative director Nielsen Media Research billings 2005 £4m Nielsen Media Research billings 2004 £4m Total accounts year end 28 Accounts won 13 (biggest: Masterfoods) Accounts lost 0 Number of staff 210

If new-business achievements alone were the measure of success in 2005, then Joshua could fairly claim to have had a good year.

Certainly, Joshua's performance suggests it is up to meeting the performance targets set by its new WPP parent. Not only did a net new-billings gain of £31 million propel it to second place in the Campaign DM agency rankings, but the wins covered a breadth of clients and a wide range of disciplines.

Integrated advertising for Swatch, customer relationship marketing briefs from Masterfoods, Nescafe and GlaxoSmithKline, and a sales promotion task from Procter & Gamble all added to the momentum of the agency. Just as important is the fact no business was lost. However, the agency must wait until the spring to know if it has successfully retained its slice of the £17 million Post Office account.

This year, Joshua faces some considerable challenges. One is to establish a clear purpose for itself. Some believe its integrated positioning does not play well at WPP, which is loathe to have it competing with its Grey stablemate for business.

The other is to ensure its new-business success is matched by its creative product. This aim may not have been helped by the loss of some seasoned talent, notably Steve Broadhurst and the senior team of Brian Storey and Xanthos Christodoulou.

Now, with Mitch Levy having forsaken his role as executive creative director to take global creative command on Swatch, the task falls to Rod Clausen and Christian Clark to deliver the creative product that will give Joshua a truly all-round offering.

Score last year: 5

Score this year: 6

How Joshua rates itself: 6

"2005 brought record new billings and some impressive awards. But, perhaps more significantly, we started laying the foundations for a new type of communications agency: second-generation integration. The new executive creative directors, Christian Clark and Rod Clausen, will ensure creativity lies at the heart of this new way of thinking."

JWT

Type of agency Advertising Company ownership WPP subsidiary Key personnel Toby Hoare executive chairman Alison Burns chief executive Nick Bell executive creative director Nielsen Media Research billings 2005 £333m Nielsen Media Research billings 2004 £329m Total accounts year end 26 Accounts won 3 (biggest: First Direct) Accounts lost 2 (biggest: Axa) Number of staff 304

JWT ended 2004 on a high. International new-business success saw it careering up league tables, almost superseding Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO as the biggest agency in the UK. But it all went wrong in 2005.

Its growth was reliant on international alignments and when these stopped coming in, its inability to secure its own major accounts was exposed.

The agency participated unsuccessfully in three massive pitches over the year, the first of which was Sainsbury's. It brought in the right retail expertise by hiring the former Lowe dynamos Mark Cadman, as its managing director, and Russ Lidstone, as its planning director, but Sainsbury's remained with AMV.

Next was its bid for the global British Airways account and finally came the global pitch for Omo. Neither was successful and JWT suffered the loss of its £25 million domestic Persil account as a result.

Losses deepened as Axa moved its £22 million business away as part of a global realignment and Samsung shifted into Leo Burnett. The agency also raised a lot of eyebrows when it fired the AAR.

Creative work was solid, a highlight being its interactive ad for Smirnoff.

By the end of the year, JWT's chief executive, Simon Bolton, who had a prickly relationship with the creative chief, Nick Bell, was moved into another role within WPP, while Cadman and Lidstone were preparing to move to Euro RSCG London. In 2006, Toby Hoare, who was named executive chairman and given the difficult brief of steering the agency out of its woes, gave Alison Burns the task of restoring JWT to its former glory as its chief executive.

Score last year: 7

Score this year: 4

How JWT rates itself: 5

"A very astute, intelligent pupil, among the top of class. Its creative reputation is growing and increasingly it is cherry-picked from global agencies to compete in high-profile pitches. A new management team led by Toby Hoare is expected to steer this promising student to Head of School."

KARMARAMA

Type of agency Advertising Company ownership Private company Key personnel Dave Buonaguidi creative director Ben Bilboul managing partner Paddy Barnes managing partner Nielsen Media Research billings 2005 £8m Nielsen Media Research billings 2004 £11m Total accounts year end 11 Accounts won 5 (biggest: Colman's) Accounts lost 1 (Ikea) Number of staff 60

With four successful years since its launch in 2001 under its belt, the pieces were in place for Karmarama to enjoy a fruitful 2005. But this year saw the agency take a turn for the worse and start to lose momentum.

The year ended with the shock departure of one of Karmarama's founding partners, Naresh Ramchandani, leaving Dave Buonaguidi as the agency's sole creative partner alongside Paddy Barnes and Ben Bilboul, who continue as joint managing partners. Earlier in the year, the agency also lost its creative team Vic Polkinghorne and Matt Jones to Saatchi & Saatchi.

In May, Ikea - Karmarama's flagship account - ditched the agency in the middle of a high-profile, popular campaign featuring the spoof designer Van den Puup and moved to the Danish agency RBLM.

Karmarama has featured on some credible pitchlists this year, but has frequently failed to convert this into wins. In June, it was shortlisted along with Fallon and Hooper Galton to pitch for the £3 million pan-European Opodo account. Unsuccessful, the agency then tried for the £4 million First Choice account, but lost out to Beattie McGuinness Bungay.

It also missed out on Diesel's streetwear brand, 55DSL, which was eventually handed to the Paris-based agency Leg.

But 2005 was not without new-business success. Winning the Colman's creative account saw Karmarama join Unilever's roster. This win came the same week the agency was appointed to launch the online financial brand Zopa. It also won Amstel at the end of the year.

Stability is Karmarama's watchword for 2006. Holding on to its key clients and winning a few new ones is imperative for Karmarama to get back on track.

Score last year: 6

Score this year: 4

How Karmarama rates itself: 6

"2005 was not plain-sailing, but clients such as Unilever (Colman's), Heineken (Amstel), Ferrosan (Imedeen) and Zopa all joined Karmarama's ranks. A sense of injustice in losing Ikea and sadness in losing Naresh, but with good things happening again, the agency has never felt more positive. Watch out for us in 2006."

KITCATT NOHR ALEXANDER SHAW

Type of agency Direct marketing Company ownership Private company Key personnel Paul Kitcatt creative partner Marc Nohr managing partner Vonnie Alexander client partner Jeremy Shaw chairman Nielsen Media Research billings 2005 £6m Nielsen Media Research billings 2004 £5m Total accounts year end 19 Accounts won 5 (biggest: COI/DoH) Accounts lost 1 (Jazz FM) Number of staff 39

Kitcatt Nohr Alexander Shaw has carved out a niche as a middle-ground creative shop that excels at COI and charity briefs. This positioning served it well in 2005. It won five accounts and lost one when Guardian Media Group moved its Jazz FM account into a rival. It filled this hole with the brief to create the first ad campaign for Haymarket Publishing's women's glossy, Eve.

It added the European launch of Logitech's webcams, a new product launch from the General Teaching Council, and Cancer Research UK's high-value donor programme. It is also set to pick up some projects from Unicef as a result of ongoing discussions resulting from the pitch for the charity's £5 million direct marketing account, won by WWAV Rapp Collins.

Creatively, there were several highlights. It produced an acclaimed anti-smoking press and DM campaign for the Department of Health, as well as some thought-provoking DM for its Samaritans and NSPCC clients - not to mention a number of campaigns for Virgin Holidays across TV and other direct media. The agency won a clutch of nominations at the Campaign Direct Awards and was among the most-awarded agencies at the Direct Marketing Association Awards with 11 gongs, three of them gold.

In terms of growth, the agency took a stake in the digital agency Underwired to formalise an earlier agreement to support each other's clients. It attracted some top creative talent including the senior writer Ben Golik and the art director Phil Wyatt, while Lindsay Watson joined from Cramm Francis Woolf as the client director.

2005 was undoubtedly a solid year for Kitcatt Nohr, but to improve the agency needs to broaden its client base - winning a finance and car brand should be high up the "to do" list this year.

Score last year: n/a

Score this year: 7

How Kitcatt Nohr rates itself: 7

"Highlights? Winning 11 DMA Awards, including three golds for Virgin. Seeing our teen anti-smoking campaign hit the streets and get worldwide press coverage. Picking up a Marketing Week Effectiveness Award for Friends Reunited. Investing in digital and hiring even more talent. Lowlights? Losing our first pitch in 16 months."

LEAGAS DELANEY.

Type of agency Advertising Company ownership Private company Key personnel Tim Delaney chairman, executive creative director Margaret Johnson group managing director Elliot Moss managing director, London Rob Burleigh creative director, London Nielsen Media Research billings 2005 £29m Nielsen Media Research billings 2004 £16m Total accounts year end 14 Accounts won 3 (biggest: BlackBerry Europe) Accounts lost 1 (Twinings) Number of staff 55

Having lost its biggest-billing client, Hyundai, in 2004, Leagas Delaney's challenge last year was to bring in significant new business. This challenge was not met.

Although it only lost one account over the year, it was a significant one. Twinings dropped the agency from its £4 million creative account just as its TV work for the brand was making its debut.

Towards the end of the year there was some, limited, new-business success: it scooped the £4 million BlackBerry pan-European advertising account (marking the first time BlackBerry has used an ad agency), the Platinum Guild International account, and the jewellery brand Georg Jensen.

Creatively, the agency's reel is solid. It's behind strong campaigns for both Nationwide and Twinings. In addition, it set up an in-house design agency, called Carbon Design, which services both new and existing clients.

Leagas Delaney also added some bulk to a management line-up that has suffered numerous high-profile desertions in recent years. In September, the agency appointed Elliot Moss, a 12-year veteran of Leo Burnett, as its managing director.

Then followed the appointment of Scott Berman as the creative services director. Meanwhile, Paul Birch joined from Ogilvy & Mather to bolster the creative team, along with Ben Stiltz and Colin Booth from Grey.

With Tim Delaney at the helm, Leagas Delaney has enviable creative firepower.

This is its best asset and needs to be converted into growth in 2006.

Score last year: 4

Score this year: 5

How Leagas Delaney rates itself: 6

"Highlights: The category-redefining Nationwide campaign; the World Food Programme commercial that one billion people saw at Live8; winning BlackBerry - the world's most important business tool; extending our offering through Carbon Design; opening our Milan office; hiring award-winning creative talent; appointing a London managing director to lead the new management team."

LEAN MEAN FIGHTING MACHINE.

Type of agency Digital advertising Company ownership Private company Key personnel Tom Bazeley managing partner Sam Ball creative partner Dave Bedwood creative partner Dave Cox technical partner Declared income £415,000 Accounts won 5 (biggest: Too Far Publishing) Accounts lost 1 (William Hill) Creative 90% Media planning and buying 0% Webs design/build 5% Consultancy 5% Biggest-spending clients International Herald Tribune, AOL, United Airlines Number of staff 6

Lean Mean Fighting Machine's second year of existence was considerably quieter than its first, when it burst on to the scene with some sector-leading work for United Airlines, AOL and the International Herald Tribune.

Both awards and new business have been thin on the ground this year for the agency, though its creative credentials remain some of the best in the business.

Highlights in 2005 included a new campaign for AOL, which used a cursor to pull thoughts out of a girl's ear, the now infamous "dog turd" Eyeblaster ad, and its latest effort for United Airlines, which involved 150 different executions, each featuring a different US airport.

But for an agency that set out to be "pound for pound the best online advertising agency in the world", its failure to win big at the major international shows must have come as a disappointment.

At the end of the year, LMFM picked up the consumer advertising account for the software provider Computer Associates. This win followed earlier small successes, including 20th Century Fox, the Barbican and William Hill - though the bookmaker pulled its business out of the agency later on in the year.

Tellingly, the agency has yet to land a single retained client, something it really needs to do if it is to plan effectively for future growth.

Though its insistence on focusing on great creative above all else is admirable, LMFM is going to have to show that it also understands clients' business issues if it is going to compete for big accounts. Hiring a senior suit might be a good first step.

Score last year: 6

Score this year: 5

How Lean Mean Fighting Machine rates itself: 6

"The standard of work remains consistently high, but the big-spending clients from the worlds of finance and the automobile remain elusive.Pioneers of online advertising, maybe, but we need to set alight the international awards shows with a truly seminal piece of work."

LEITH.

Type of agency Advertising Company ownership Cello Group subsidiary Key personnel John Rowley chief executive Jeremy Pyne managing director (London) Phil Adams managing director (Edinburgh) Nielsen Media Research billings 2005 £37m Nielsen Media Research billings 2004 £44m Total accounts year end 41 (14 in London; 27 in Edinburgh) Accounts won 12 (biggest: Silentnight) Accounts lost 0 Number of staff 80 (22 in London; 58 in Edinburgh)

Leith London looked to be having an uninspiring but steady year until the very end of 2005, when disaster struck: its biggest and most creatively ambitious client, Coors, announced it was to review its Carling account.

The business is estimated to be worth 30 per cent of the agency's income.

As this report went to press, the review was still unresolved. However, even if Leith retains the brief, its review has exposed the agency's over-dependence on one client. The 2005 wins, the £3 million Silentnight and £1 million London Dungeon accounts, do not alter this situation.

The agency fared better north of the border, where Leith Edinburgh enjoyed a decent new-business run. Unfortunately, most of its wins were small spenders and will not have greatly affected the overall business.

As a result, it was hardly the year that both the Scottish and English agencies were looking for in their first full year as part of the Cello marketing communications group.

The beginning of 2005 saw both agencies looking to expand following Cello's 2004 acquisition. The Edinburgh-based business went some way to achieving this by launching Leithal Thinking, a planning and brand consultancy that works alongside Leith Direct, the company's direct marketing arm.

However, the London agency has struggled both with expansion and new business. In an attempt to reverse this, the agency hired Jessica Williamson from FCB London as its first new-business director. The agency will need to undertake much more radical change, however, if it wants to carve itself a place within London's extremely competitive market.

Score last year: 4

Score this year: 4

How Leith rates itself: 6

"We celebrated our 21st year with 12 wins and a strong showing at the Scottish and Roses awards. With a re-invigorated new-business effort, exciting growth at Leithal Thinking, our new brand consultancy, and at Leith Direct, we're looking forward to 2006 (with or without a certain lager brand)."

LEO BURNETT

Type of agency Advertising Company ownership Publicis Groupe subsidiary Key personnel Bruce Haines group chief executive Jim Thornton executive creative director Paul Lawson managing director Ali Bucknall executive planning director Nielsen Media Research billings 2005 £187m Nielsen Media Research billings 2004 £206m Total accounts year end 25 Accounts won 8 (biggest: Samsung) Accounts lost 2 (biggest: Scottish Courage) Number of staff 236

Following a slow 2004 that failed to live up to expectations, a successful 2005 was crucial for an agency that was fast turning into a sleeping giant.

The year started strongly with the £5.6 million Scottish Widows win and a place on two major pitches, but soon hit a downturn when it was knocked off the Sainsbury's longlist at an early stage and forced to pull out of the Abbey pitch because of client conflict. Conflict also kept the agency out of the Yakult and Post Office pitches later in the year.

Losses included Scottish Courage, resigned after the agency picked up InBev's Beck's account, and Morgan Stanley, which left when the bank's US head office moved the global account.

It won monster.co.uk without a pitch and picked up Beck's as part of a global realignment. A place on InBev's roster might compensate for the beer brand's small ad budget (£1 million). The network also picked up the global Samsung account.

Paul Lawson was promoted to managing director with a remit to pay special attention to new business, taking on responsibility for a role that had been vacant for more than seven months.Ali Bucknall took over as the executive planning director. Both appointments have given the agency a sense of dynamism that it was lacking.

The agency's creative output, which showed signs of improvement with good work for COI's Road Safety campaign and an award-winning poster for Heinz, will also be given a boost by the appointments of the United London creatives Jonathan Burley and Jim Bolton.

There is a feeling of confidence in the agency that has been lacking for some time. But the agency's new-found swagger is sorely needed to pick up a couple of meaningful UK accounts in 2006.

Score last year: 5

Score this year: 6

How Leo Burnett rates itself: 7

"Better work - Campaign Annual appearances in Best Press, TV, Outdoor, Cinema, Strategic Insights. Better results - five APG Awards. Better people - including five new creative directors. Better new business - Scottish Widows, Freixenet, ODPM, Beck's, Ladbrokes, Monster.Com, Samsung. Best night out - Worst Fucking Idea raised £45,000 for Comic Relief."

LOWE

Type of agency Advertising Company ownership Interpublic subsidiary Key personnel Garry Lace chief executive Chris Hunton managing director Ed Morris executive creative director Judy Mitchem chief marketing officer Nielsen Media Research billings 2005 £184m Nielsen Media Research billings 2004 £201m Total accounts year end 23 Accounts won 7 (biggest: Associated British Foods) Accounts lost 2 (biggest: Tesco) Number of staff 167

Lowe's pain was Sir Frank Lowe's gain in 2005 when the agency's founder exacted revenge on those who cast him out by returning to snatch the agency's £50 million Tesco account.

No matter that it had long looked vulnerable (not least because of Tesco's close relationship with the Lowe chairman, Paul Weinberger), the shock of the loss could not be disguised. Nor could its implications.

Tesco's defection to Sir Frank's start-up may prove a watershed for Lowe.

For one thing it was a bedrock account upon which the agency's reputation had been built. For another it marked the departure of Weinberger, the last of the Lowe old guard and keeper of its culture.

Even without the Tesco trauma, Lowe was seldom out of the headlines.

If it wasn't Mark Cadman's resignation as the managing director, after Garry Lace was appointed ahead of him to succeed Matthew Bull as the chief executive, there were the 29 redundancies Lace was forced to make.

As if the loss of Tesco's £5 million-worth of income wasn't bad enough, what made its exit even harder to bear was that it negated the progress made by Lace and the management team he built. They included Chris Hunton, the managing director, and Judy Mitchem, the chief marketing officer.

Despite missing out on the Omo global creative assignment, the agency did add Cif, Nokia, Twinings, Ovaltine and Innocent Drinks to its client list as well as making it on to the COI roster.

As for the work, few would contest that Lowe has one of the best reels in town. Just how the agency produced ads of the calibre of "ice-skating priests" and "the sacrifice" for Stella Artois, "stunt city" for Sure and a plethora of brilliant executions for Tesco in such a turbulent year is testament to Lowe's obsessive focus on the creative product.

All of which makes it an even harder call for Michael Roth, the boss of Lowe's Interpublic parent. Will he allow Lowe extra time to recover from its wounds, or put it out of its misery?

Score last year: 2

Score this year: 2

How Lowe rates itself: 4

"A tough year, underpinned by great creativity. With our new management team in place, things started going well - six new-business wins, positive endorsements from existing clients and great work for clients such as Stella Artois, Sure, the British Heart Foundation, Domestos and Tesco. Then came the huge blow of Tesco's defection, leaving us wounded but resilient."

M&C SAATCHI

Type of agency Advertising Company ownership AIM listed Key personnel Moray MacLennan chairman Tim Duffy chief executive Graham Fink creative director Nielsen Media Research billings 2005 £263m Nielsen Media Research billings 2004 £253m Total accounts year end 35 Accounts won 6 (biggest: Direct Line Insurance) Accounts lost 4 (biggest: British Airways) Number of staff 280

Last year was a mixture of fortunes for M&C Saatchi. While British Airways put a dampener on the agency's tenth birthday celebrations by flying to a new destination, the arrival of the £35 million-billing Direct Line brought some comfort.

That's not to say the departure of the £60 million BA account isn't hugely damaging both in financial and psychological terms. The loss ended a 20-year relationship between the client and Maurice and Charles Saatchi and stripped out 7 per cent of the agency's global revenue, precipitating job losses. Worse, its effect on M&C's attempt to build a micro network could be felt for some time to come.

Relations with GlaxoSmithKline were strengthened by the win of the £4 million Ribena account, but the agency's £6 million Transport for London account went into review in the autumn.

Graham Fink's arrival as the creative chief in September had a lot to do with the BA repitch, but it was also presented as a sign that the agency wanted to modernise itself. M&C made other changes to the senior management team, bringing in Matt Willifer from Heresy as the planning director and promoting Richard Alford to managing director. Nevertheless, the agency retains an extremely top-heavy management team, some of whom earned their stripes years ago on Charlotte Street.

The loss of BA would have killed off a less confident agency. M&C Saatchi responded with a typically gutsy ad in The Times. This was an early sign of the spirit that the agency will need to recover.

During the coming year, M&C Saatchi is likely to focus more fully on two key areas. One is the better use of its "village" of specialist operations.

The other is international development, with new offices in Spain, Italy and Germany giving it a presence in 18 countries. Meanwhile, Fink will be expected to boost the awards tally with a more inspirational creative output.

Score last year: 6

Score this year: 4

How M&C Saatchi rates itself: 5

"Good: New-business wins; including ITV, Ribena, Direct Line, Tourism Australia. New hirings: Graham Fink, Camilla Tappin, Matt Willifer. Performance from all seven UK group companies. Advertisements. Score 8/9. Bad: Retention of airline account. Score -3/9."

MCCANN ERICKSON

Type of agency Advertising Company ownership Interpublic subsidiary Key personnel Rupert Howell chairman, regional director, EMEA Stephen Whyte chief executive Brian Fraser executive creative director Simon Learman executive creative director Nielsen Media Research billings 2005 £294m Nielsen Media Research billings 2004 £308m Total accounts year end 97 Accounts won 18 (biggest: Co-op Retail) Accounts lost 5 (biggest: Capital One) Number of staff n/a

By its own admission, McCann Erickson wasn't the best agency in London in 2004. Deficiencies in almost every area led to the agency taking home a Must Try Harder sticker.

McCann's task for 2005 was fairly straightforward: improve its new-business performance; make better ads; put the right people in place to ensure the success in those twin aims and, in the process, improve its domestic reputation.

McCann's performance in retaining business and enticing new accounts was certainly an improvement on the previous year. The Co-op (retail), Intel, Werther's, Credit Suisse and RHM Foods (Bisto and Sharwood's) all came in, to the tune of £44.2 million, making McCann the fifth-best agency in terms of wins. Overall, McCann finished eighth in the league, taking into account the global losses of Capital One (£16 million) and Vaseline (£4 million). As a network, McCann suffered from the weaknesses of its Interpublic parent.

The work has improved, with campaigns for American Airlines and Bisto both highlights when compared with the agency's Turkeys of the past.

Whether these are trends that will continue is open to question, though.

Robert Campbell's departure saw the distintegration of Rupert Howell's carefully assembled dream team. Brian Fraser and Simon Learman may turn out to be better casting.

Score last year: 4

Score this year: 5

How McCann Erickson rates itself: 7

"Our creative work has improved significantly (look at Bisto and American Airlines). UK clients voted us Best Agency for 2005. We participated in the largest and most prestigious pitches. We won Intel, Co-op, Bisto and Sharwood's and were the third-most successful agency for new business. We're smiling. Not smugly!"

MEDIA PLANNING GROUP

Type of agency Media Company ownership Havas subsidiary Key personnel Marc Mendoza managing partner Mark Craze managing partner Nielsen Media Research billings 2005 £83m Nielsen Media Research billings 2004 £85m Total accounts year end 79 Accounts won 20 (biggest: P&O) Accounts lost 6 (biggest: Intel) TV 28.1% Press 28% Out of home 9.6% Radio 3.4% Below the line 0% Other 30.9% Number of staff 102

Media Planning Group has put faith in a double act to turn around the fortunes of its UK operation. Last June Mark Craze, the former chief executive of Aegis Media UK, joined his cousin Marc Mendoza as managing partner to help steer the agency towards success.

Craze may yet prove to be a successful Morecambe to Mendoza's Wise, but he has asked for three years for the agency to prove itself. Before that, however, everything could change if the Havas boss, Vincent Bollore, acquires Aegis.

In the meantime, MPG has got on with things in a quietly determined fashion.

Craze began a programme of hirings that resulted in the appointment of Jim McDonald as the head of broadcast in November. Martyn Stokes joined from Universal McCann as the strategy director and Martin Thomas from WPP's Nylon as the head of strategy, while Marie Oldham, the previous head of strategy, moves to three days a week.

In terms of work, MPG had a strong year. It took many by surprise when it won Media Campaign of the Year at the Campaign Media Awards for Intel (an account that had already moved to Universal McCann as part of a global consolidation). Activity for the Conservative Party was also awarded.

New business was steady for MPG with a claimed £42 million in new-business wins from the likes of Paul Smith Fragrances, Hermes, P&O Ferries and Peroni.

On the downside there were some significant losses - Intel was joined by The Independent and esure in moving its business away. MPG was heavily involved in pitching for Peugeot-Citroen and, ahead of the unsuccessful pitch, established a joint venture called 2MV with WPP's Group M to contest the account.

After a year of change and then consolidation in 2005, agency staff are predicting fireworks in 2006. Craze's attempt to inject entrepreneurial spirit must result in more new business and an improved ability to defend prized accounts.

Score last year: 5

Score this year: 6

How MPG rates itself: 6

"2005 was a watershed year for MPG. In July we launched a significant and ambitious investment programme. Our goal is to build the UK's most senior, talented media team and make MPG the most admired media agency in town."

MEDIACOM

Type of agency Media Company ownership WPP subsidiary Key personnel Nick Lawson group chief executive Jane Ratcliffe managing director Sue Unerman chief strategic officer Karen Blackett marketing director Nielsen Media Research billings 2005 £862m Nielsen Media Research billings 2004 £725m Total accounts year end 270 Accounts won 18 (biggest: Muller) Accounts lost 2 (biggest: Roche) TV 44% Press 31% Out of home 9% Radio 4% Below the line 4% Other 8% Number of staff 414

After a barnstorming 2004, MediaCom had another strong year in 2005.

It piled on the new business, kept hold of key clients and, unlike the MediaCom of old, was a regular on the podium at awards ceremonies.

The company also made the move into new parent WPP's Group M buying group, and underwent an extensive, yet relatively smooth, management restructure.

The group chief executive, Stephen Allan, left the agency to head up Group M and swiftly promoted Nick Lawson to succeed him. MediaCom's broadcast director, Mark Collins, also left for a senior role at Group M, prompting industry wags to suggest that the "M" in Group M stands for MediaCom.

On the new-business front, the agency had another fruitful year, rounded off by the retention of its £35 million COI press buying account. It finished third in Campaign's new-business league, with new billings of £69 million.

More surprising was the impression MediaCom made at the Campaign Media Awards, where it emerged as the most nominated agency. It picked up two silver awards for its "The lighter way to enjoy ..." effort for Maltesers and the much admired "What do you want to watch?" campaign for Sky.

The agency's task for 2006 will be to continue its new-business record and keep up efforts to inject creativity into its work. More important, perhaps, is the need to protect the special qualities and staff investment that earned MediaCom a place on The Sunday Times Top 30 Best Companies to Work For list as it adapts to life in the WPP empire.

Score last year: 9

Score this year: 8

How MediaCom rates itself: 8

"At the beginning of 2005, MediaCom was facing a year of statutory reviews and repitches on some of our biggest accounts, and the potential loss of £250 million. We kept them all - clear testimony to our performance - as well as adding a further £100 million of new business."

MEDIAEDGE:CIA

Type of agency Media Company ownership WPP subsidiary Key personnel Tom George managing director Nielsen Media Research billings 2005 £182m Nielsen Media Research billings 2004 £162m Total accounts year end 173 Accounts won 11 (biggest: Specsavers) Accounts lost 3 (biggest: Bulldog) TV 43% Press 33% Out of home 11% Radio 5% Below the line 0% Other 8% Number of staff 212

Mediaedge:cia has had a troubled time since its creation in 2001.

But 2005 was its best year yet, as the agency flowered into a fully fledged media communications agency with a competitive position.

The agency finished ninth in the Campaign new-business league, with wins totalling £50 million. Some £12 million came from Transport for London after a pitch against PHD, MediaCom, Starcom and Carat. The agency also pitched successfully as part of Group M on several occasions, with its participation in the Specsavers win netting the agency the £15 million account. It rounded off the year by beating MediaCom in a two-way battle for the £9 million Wickes business. On the negative side, the agency lost Bulldog and its £10 million Saga Group account.

MEC's clearer position, introduced by the managing director, Tom George, was a big mark in its favour this year. While many big media agencies have attempted to reinvent their USPs to emulate the younger and more innovative agencies, it remains to be seen how genuine many of these transformations have been. This cannot be said of MEC, which can rightly claim to be more than just a buying agency turning the same trick day in, day out.

More than half of MEC's staff work in the digital, interactive and online disciplines, and more than 50 per cent of its revenue comes from sources other than conventional media planning and buying. The agency is also investing in new offerings, such as specialist regional and retail units.

Its focus for 2006 will be to hold on to its key accounts and continue to develop an offering that is starting to win favour with advertisers.

Score last year: 5

Score this year: 6

How MEC rates itself: 7

"MEC was hiding its light under a bushel. We've got great people, a uniquely diverse business model and terrific strategic credentials: so 2005 was all about letting people know this. Twenty-one pitches, 11 new accounts and £60 million in new billings later, we're knackered and happy, but far from complacent."

MEDIAVEST MANCHESTER

Type of agency Media Company ownership 20% owned by Publicis Groupe Key personnel Dave Lucas managing partner Andy Jeal managing partner Paul Catlow director Alison Wright broadcast director Nielsen Media Research billings 2005 £115m Nielsen Media Research billings 2004 £112m Total accounts year end 148 Accounts won 10 (biggest: Holiday Break) Accounts lost 3 (biggest: Inchcape) TV 27% Press 49% Out of home 3% Radio 3% Below the line 4% Other 14% Number of staff 157

Reinvention is becoming something of an annual event for MediaVest Manchester. After a solid 2004, during which the agency restructured, it tinkered with its business model again in 2005.

A structural rethink centralised the agency's planning and buying into investment groups, creating press, broadcast and outdoor specialisms.

On the new-business front, the agency landed ten accounts, including Patak's, Tulip, DebtMatters and Express Gifts. The highlight was winning Holiday Break's £3 million business. On the negative side, MediaVest lost the £3 million Inchcape account, Fitness First and Autobytel. The launch of littlemsmallv, a children's division, was a smart move that paid off when it swiped the media planning and buying account for Fruitella from Rocket.

Its "pretty in punk" campaign for Bratz dolls was commended at the Campaign Media Awards - proof that the agency could produce some good work despite the distraction of the restructure.

MediaVest is one of only a handful of agencies able to offer clients access to a large global network (Publicis holds a minority stake) while also being owner-operated. The agency is benefiting from a stable management that has been augmented in 2006 with the appointment of Charlie Varley.

Score last year: 6

Score this year: 6

How MediaVest rates itself: 7

"A radical structural change in 2005 centralised buying into specialist investment groups, with planning the responsibility of dedicated teams - a move universally welcomed by clients. It was a solid, if unspectacular, year in terms of business growth, with turnover slightly increased at £197 million. New hirings at the end of 2005 should fuel growth in 2006."

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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