Feature

Advertising Agency of the Year 2013: VCCP

2013 was VCCP's year. There was a surprising new positioning for its founding client O2, a huge swathe of new-business wins, imaginative work in the digital space and more of the meerkats.

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For VCCP, an agency that has regularly featured in the shortlist for our Agency of the Year accolade, the 11th year of its existence was undoubtedly its best to date.

It excelled in new business, picking up 19 accounts – more than any of its competitors – to claim the top spot in Campaign’s new-business table. While the £100 million Asda account, snatched from Saatchi & Saatchi after a heavily contested pitch, was the largest and most prestigious, it also hoovered up mid- to small-spending clients such as the AA, Royal London and the combined Avis/Budget brief. This strength in depth shows VCCP has reached maturity.

Of course, winning new business is only part of the story, and there has to be a reason for clients to want to hand their business to the agency in the first place.

Creatively, VCCP, led by its executive creative director, Darren Bailes, also had a stellar year – most notably for its founding client O2, for which it developed the "be more dog" positioning.

Despite having a smaller spend than its rival EE, O2 introduced a campaign that encourages people to actively engage with the mobile operator to get more out of technology. It resonated not just with consumers but with peers. In Campaign’s half-term school reports, it was voted the most-admired commercial by members of the advertising community. The new proposition was certainly a brave decision by both VCCP and O2, and it paid off – quickly becoming O2’s most viewed, shared and talked-about ad. It also helped the telecoms operator achieve the highest revenue and lowest churn in the sector.

Another of VCCP’s long-standing clients, Comparethemarket.com, also had a shot of creative adrenaline and ensured the nation’s love affair with Aleksandr Orlov continued. A series of amusing idents around the price-comparison site’s sponsorship of ITV’s Coronation Street, and a partnership with Gary Barlow, meant that the four-year-old brand icon remains as fresh as ever. It also translated into commercial success: Comparethemarket.com’s parent, BGL Group, posted a 23 per cent leap in profits to £88 million last year.

Using creativity to fuel business results was most evident in VCCP’s work for easyJet. From its perception as a marginally more popular rival to Ryanair, VCCP successfully repositioned the company in its first-ever brand campaign by marrying its low-cost challenger heritage with a more sophisticated language. Claiming an ROI of 6:1, the "this is generation easyJet" campaign helped easyJet double its share price since January and contributed to the airline carrying a record 60 million passengers.

Outstanding, and arguably more creative, work was produced for Macmillan Cancer Support, which eschewed the shock tactics so common in the charity sector to emotionally engage the viewer. The campaign showed the impact cancer could have not only on the sufferer but on those around them.

Equally powerful was a brand film for the high-end car manufacturer McLaren that told the story of its founder, Bruce McLaren, and the culture of innovation that was born after his tragic death in a car crash. The film successfully positioned McLaren as an aspirational alternative to Ferrari and Lamborghini.

The modern agency is not just about producing TV ads, however, and VCCP – under the solid and stable management team, led by the chief executive, Michael Sugden – has been evolving to both anticipate and reflect client need. Its digital offering is particularly strong – evident in the apps it created for easyJet and O2, as well as the awards it has been given by the Internet Advertising Bureau. VCCP also transformed its media arm, VCCP Media, into a full-service media planning and buying outfit led by Paul Mead. The nascent agency operates a refreshingly clear business model in a market that can sometimes seem opaque, billing only for time spent, and is likely to prove another useful addition to VCCP’s existing suite of services.

Having started out with a staff of just the four founders – of whom Charles Vallance, Adrian Coleman and Ian Priest still have hands-on roles – VCCP is now the biggest UK-owned agency. Billings have grown by an estimated 67 per cent this year.

In short, having had its best year to date, VCCP fulfils the criteria for a modern, well-rounded and multi-discipline agency. For this reason, it is a worthy winner of Campaign’s Agency of the Year for the very first time. And if it continues this impressive trajectory, it will certainly be a serious contender this time next year.

Recent winners: Bartle Bogle Hegarty (2012); Bartle Bogle Hegarty (2011); Adam & Eve (2010); no winner (2009); Mother (2008)

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