Abbott Mead Vickers and MediaCom head the Top 300

LONDON - Despite a lacklustre 2004, marred by account losses such as WH Smith and Halfords, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO has retained its number-one spot in the Campaign Top 300 report, compiled with Nielsen Media Research.

Breathing down its neck was JWT. The WPP-owned agency, which leap-frogged McCann Erickson into second place, increased its billings by 13% to £327.9m, winning the HSBC, Knorr, Allied Bakeries and Samsung accounts.

Simon Bolton, JWT's chief executive, said: "We've had a fabulous year, tightening the relationship between business performance and creative product. That's our focus for getting to number one. I believe we'll be there by midway through this year."

The rankings' highest-profile casualty was TBWA\ London, which fell eight places and out of the top 10 to 15th. Losing the £53m 3 account was largely to blame, while news last week that its £21m Abbey business is reviewing will exacerbate the situation.

Other network agencies, including Ogilvy & Mather, Euro RSCG, Leo Burnett and Lowe, also struggled, all losing billings. Meanwhile, it was the independent agencies that recorded the most impressive billings growth.

The biggest climber was Clemmow Hornby Inge, which broke into the top 20 just three years after launching. The agency grew by 43%, adding £50m in billings by winning Direct Line and The National Magazine Company, among others.

CHI's fellow three-year-old start-up Vallance Carruthers Coleman Priest saw its billings rise by 41% to £73m, while Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy and Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners, recently bought by Creston, both recorded billings growth of more than 20%.

MediaCom enjoyed its second year on top of the media agency rankings, which ZenithOptimedia had dominated since it launched in 1988. The recently merged Starcom UK Group pushed ZenithOptimedia down into third position.

The biggest loser was Media Planning Group, which, smarting from the loss of the Orange account in 2003, saw its billings fall by 39% (£54m) to £83m.

PHD, which lost Homebase and HSBC, and Vizeum, which lost Disney, also suffered, down 17% and 15% respectively.

MediaVest Manchester was the highest-ranking independent media shop. The agency, minority-owned by Publicis Groupe, moved from 16th to 14th place, managing to fend off the bigger networks and retaining the likes of Alliance & Leicester, Smint and Chupa Chups.

MindShare is expected to top next year's media table, its Unilever win adding more than £200m billings. Initiative's loss of the account  will likely see it plummet down the rankings.

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