AGENCY OF THE YEAR - ST LUKE’S - Owned by its staff, this shop produced exciting work, won exceptional new business and demonstrated the success of an unconventional approach

Has Campaign succumbed to the cult of the Moonies, sucked in by the ’virtual office’ mantra of advertising’s pet co-operative? Or has St Luke’s been awarded ’agency of the year’ because of its outstanding pounds 21 million new-business run? Or because campaigns including Ikea’s ’furniture findings’ and Boots’ ’happy bits, happy self’ have broken new ground?

Has Campaign succumbed to the cult of the Moonies, sucked in by the

’virtual office’ mantra of advertising’s pet co-operative? Or has St

Luke’s been awarded ’agency of the year’ because of its outstanding

pounds 21 million new-business run? Or because campaigns including

Ikea’s ’furniture findings’ and Boots’ ’happy bits, happy self’ have

broken new ground?

Or could it be that - love it or hate it - St Luke’s, as a co-operative,

has managed to achieve something different in business.

This year’s debate was heated. Much discussed were BMP DDB’s inspiring

agency reel and Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe’s GM Astra victory. Euro

RSCG Wnek Gosper’s phenomenal new-business performance forced the agency

into contention.

However, it was the all-round performance of the two-year-old St Luke’s

that set the agency apart from its rivals. Born out of the merger of

Chiat Day’s London office and its TBWA counterpart in1995, St Luke’s set

out to be different. This was reflected in a structure that ensures

everyone - from receptionist to managing director - has shares in the

company. This might sound progressive, but does it work? So far, the

answer is, ’yes’.

The agency’s policy of replacing offices with ’brand rooms’ dedicated to

each client has proved attractive to new business. This year, St Luke’s

stepped on to the United Distillers and Coca-Cola rosters, as well as

picking up the COI’s Welfare to Work project, which looks likely to be

the most lucrative advertising contract of the Labour Government’s first

term in office.

Coupled with Fox’s Biscuits and Clark’s shoes, billings on new accounts

totalled pounds 21.2 million, with the Observer the only loss of the


On another level, St Luke’s response to its growth has been mature for

such a young company. Each hiring ultimately means a new shareholder, so

expansion has been steady rather than rapid.

St Luke’s will now only pitch for accounts worth more than pounds 5

million, unless there is a valid reason for doing so, and withdraws from

reviews which the team cannot do justice to. Detractors, of course,

denounce this as ’wimps pulling out of reviews they can’t win’. But how

many agencies can see the writing on the wall, and then have the guts to

respond to it?

Creatively, St Luke’s cannot be judged by the yardstick of industry

awards, since it never enters them (it’s all about teamwork, you see,

not individuals).

But a scan through the year’s work shows that it has had more than its

share of big ideas.

This year’s Ikea campaign, for example, took a tongue-in-cheek look at

the correlation between behavioural traits and the furniture in your

home, and has sent sales of green sofas soaring. Similarly, Clark’s ’act

your shoe size not your age’, transformed the brand’s image by looking

at the product from a child’s point of view.

Other creative highlights include work for Boots Natural Collection

which features a naked girl in a tank, commercials on a Mission

Impossible theme for the Midland Bank and Radio 1’s repositioning.

Profitability, as in most private companies, is a closed book. St Luke’s

rivals are fond of saying its results are below average for its size,

but operating profits are very comfortable by any standards this


Yet financial performance is only one of four goals for the agency,

which include quality of work, impact on clients’ business and the

well-being of staff.

Since the agency is owned by its staff, excess funds can be channelled

into other areas to help develop their interests. This year the agency

split into three groups - two to handle advertising and one to explore

ideas in programme-making.

All of the above has combined to give St Luke’s a brilliant year,

removing the doubts about flakiness that contributed to it failing to

beat Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO last year. Smaller agencies don’t often

win this prize, but St Luke’s consolidated its reputation as a leading


None of this detracts from the achievements of other agencies. BMP, for

example, although chalking up a slower 12 months on the domestic

new-business front, was praised for its work. It became the first UK

shop to win a D&AD gold in 11 years for its Doritos idents, and produced

some glorious advertising for Volkswagen, Sony, Legoland and the Meat

and Livestock Commission. It currently has - by some way - the best

showreel in town.

Memorable Rainey Kelly work includes the ’grim reaper’ commercial for

Virgin Atlantic, as well as interesting executions for the Times,

Beamish, Virgin Cola and Virgin Atlantic ’upper class’ with Helen


On the new-business side, a good year also turned into an excellent one

in December, when Rainey Kelly won the task to launch GM’s new Astra

across Europe.

An honourable mention goes to a transformed Euro RSCG for its fantastic

new-business year, which brought in a net pounds 46.7 million in

billings, including a potential pounds 32 million from Abbey National

and pounds 4.2 million from Haagen-Dazs, propelling the agency to the

top of Campaign’s business performance league. Next year’s challenge

will be to ensure its work matches these standards.

Mother, the year-old start-up that promises a rounded approach to

communications, has also had a stonking year. It won the prestigious

Lilt account from Coca-Cola, relaunched Unilever’s Batchelors Super

Noodles and picked up tasks from Emap On Air, Kickers, VirginNet, and

CarLand. Despite its size, Mother made its mark on the industry, proving

that clients are open to new ways of working.

Recent winners: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO (1996, 1995), HHCL (1994),

Bartle Bogle Hegarty (1993), BMP DDB Needham (1992)


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