Annual: Agency of the Year - Mother

campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 12 December 2008 12:00AM

In one of its least traditional years to date, you will have been just as likely to see a Mother comic, musical or movie as one of its 30-second TV spots.

Twelve years into its existence and 2008 has seen Mother push the industry's boundaries back further than ever before, redefining what agencies can achieve for their clients, and doing so at a time when the power of innovative creative solutions has never been more important.

While adland scrambles to achieve "cut-through" on ever-shrinking marketing budgets, Mother has stood out for broadening its horizons beyond big-budget TV spots, and having the tenacity to convince clients that one of the ways to attract consumers in an increasingly cluttered commercial environment is to do something completely different, whether that be a film, comic or musical.

The agency may not have figured near the top of Campaign's new-business rankings this year, but it won an impressive list of pan-European and global accounts. The £20 million global Stella Artois win in early December capped a year that included new briefs from Coca-Cola, Diet Coke and Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton's Chandon, as well as UK wins for Thornton's, Stella Artois 4%, Abbey Well and Energy Saving Trust.

In a move typical of an agency that has never obsessed over foraging for new business, Mother began the year by turning away the £30 million pan-European Hyundai account, just two weeks after winning it, having failed to agree financial terms.

Meanwhile, its only significant loss, the Orange Gold Spot (an account that has spawned some of the agency's best work), was fuelled by the client's desire to consolidate, rather than by dissatisfaction with Mother's output.

It wasn't a bad year in terms of its traditional output, with some typically humorous TV ads for Fox's biscuits and Orange, a controversial campaign for Oasis and two more "here come the girls" spots for Boots.

But the linchpin of the agency's success in 2008 has been its boundary-busting creative approach, which saw it rewrite the rules of what creative departments are capable of.

Mother's first "non-traditional" project this year was Four Feet From A Rat, a comic book that was distributed with Time Out magazine. Then there was Pot Noodle The Musical, which ran at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and got audiences cackling at its self-deprecating tone and camp dance routines.

Critics might sneer that these initiatives represent a fleeting nod to non-traditional advertising. But if there was any doubt of the agency's commitment to innovation, we need look no further than Somers Town, a feature-length film, directed by Shane Meadows and co-produced by Mother for Eurostar.

The film achieved critical acclaim, gained a nomination in the Titanium category at Cannes and was named the Best New British Film at the Edinburgh Film Festival. And, most importantly, Somers Town proved itself to be an effective communications device, with 50 per cent of viewers naming Eurostar as their first choice of travel to Paris - 40 per cent more than non-viewers.

To accommodate all of this non-traditional content, the agency launched two new divisions, Mother Vision, the entertainment arm responsible for Somers Town and Pot Noodle The Musical, and Mother Experience, which spearheaded a number of events, including a Pimm's-sponsored comedy festival in Holland Park, brand extensions for Penguin Books into the greetings card market and the launch of a hot-dog restaurant in New York.

Twelve years on and the founding partners, Robert Saville, Mark Waites, Stef Calcraft, Andy Medd and Matthew Clark, appear as committed and passionate about the power of progressive creativity as they were when the agency launched.

Beattie McGuinness Bungay Having spent almost the entire year at the top of Campaign's new-business rankings, BMB's case for Agency of the Year was a compelling one.

It had some very sizeable wins in the shape of Thomson Holidays, ING Direct and Freeview, as well as some smaller fry, such as Gossard and Yorkshire Tea - all of which saw the agency end the year ahead of the rest with £63.4 million in new billings.

There were also strong follow-up campaigns for Carling, such as the Cannes silver-winning "out", and the hugely popular Carling iPint, which notched up millions of downloads, a gold at the Campaign Big Awards, and a little controversy on the way. However, the rest of the agency's traditional output was respectable, but unremarkable.

Then again, as an industry innovator, BMB was snapping at the heels of Mother, fitting out Boeing's Dreamliner plane, getting McCain chips in theatre performances, designing tights and lobbying Parliament to change its "John Lewis list" to an Ikea list.

But all of that success was somewhat overshadowed in October, when it emerged that Omnicom was plotting to buy up the shop and merge it into TBWA\London.

That deal fell through a week later, but Trevor Beattie, Andrew McGuinness and Bil Bungay were clearly on a mission to make some change, and sold a 49 per cent stake to the Samsung-backed Cheil two months on.

While some critics bemoaned the clipping of one of the UK's most interesting start-ups, the premium paid for the business is testament to the strength of the founding partners - and BMB now has the opportunity to make its mark on both sides of the Atlantic.

All in all, a year to remember.

Bartle Bogle Hegarty In true BBH style, the agency managed to scramble on to our shortlist with a last-minute flourish.

With only seconds left on the clock, the Manchester United of agencies banged in a couple of late goals by getting on to the £40 million Heineken roster and putting out wonderful, yet sharply contrasting, pieces of work. Barclaycard's "glide" is a happy response to the global downturn, while "break the cycle" for Barnardo's is a harrowing tale of child torment.

Despite having a slow year on the new- business front, BBH finally realised the potential of Zag, its brand invention arm, by launching a range of ready meals named Pick Me and a rape alarm called IlaDusk.

As usual, the agency also scooped an armful of statuettes, with two golds and eight silvers at the Campaign Big Awards, seven yellow Pencils at D&AD and the IPA Effectiveness Company of the Year.

The creative department was also re-energised, as Nick Gill stepped up to executive creative director, with Rosie Arnold as his deputy, after John O'Keeffe left to become the worldwide creative director of WPP.

Fallon and Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy The first remains one of the best agencies in town, even if its creative work didn't match last year's superlative standards. MCBD, on the other hand, had perhaps its best-ever year, with great work, a raft of new business and a beefed-up management team.

Recent winners: Fallon (2007); Fallon (2006); Bartle Bogle Hegarty (2005); BBH (2004); BBH (2003)

MOTHER'S 2008

January: Nik Studzinski quits Publicis for Mother and takes creative lead on Boots.

March: Launches Four Feet From A Rat, a comic book, in Time Out.

May: Somers Town, the Eurostar-funded film, is released.

June: Launches Boots' summer "here come the girls" spot.

July: Beats Beattie McGuinness Bungay to Thornton's £3 million ad account. Launches Mother Experience.

August: Pot Noodle The Musical opens at Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Defeats Lowe to land Stella 4% brief. Wins £35 million pan-European Diet Coke account.

September: Snares pan-European summer campaign for Coca-Cola's main brand.

November: Scoops global advertising account for Moet Hennessy's Chandon brand.

December: Beats Publicis to £20 million global Stella Artois brief.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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