Close-up: Live Issue - AAR shows who's got new-business pulling power

An agency's new-business record is a reflection of its vitality, Claire Billings says. An agency's new-business performance is probably the best measure of its overall health.

New research from the AAR reveals just which agencies are the best at winning new business.

Martin Jones, the director of advertising at the AAR, says: "This research demonstrates which agencies are the best at new business rather than which are best at winning one big piece of new business. It's about consistency over time. The agencies with commitment to new business sing out."

Some agencies take a scattergun approach, aiming to get on as many pitchlists as possible, although an agency's conversion rate is the real indicator of how well that agency is performing.

Peter Cowie, the new-business director at WPP's J. Walter Thompson, enjoyed considerable success this year. The agency had 27 new-business opportunities in 2003 and scored 11 wins, three of them without a pitch. Some of these will have been former Bates clients brought in after WPP's acquisition of Cordiant.

A high profile never fails to impress potential clients and profiles don't come much higher than M&C Saatchi's. The agency is among the top scorers in the chart with 22 new-business opportunities. However, the fact that it doesn't register on Campaign's total billings league suggests that the accounts won were on the small side.

Nevertheless, the agency is on the radar of a lot of marketing directors, which proves the group marketing director, Judy Mitchem, is doing her job.

She attributes her success to the agency's strong profile and management team. "We have a very strong brand, with high awareness, and we have a distinct personality, which means a lot of clients are willing to consider us," she says.

She adds that the management team of Nick Hurrell, Moray MacLennan, Tim Duffy and the partners are all actively involved in new business and are enthusiastic about the pitches they lead.

DDB London had a strong all-round performance, bringing in business from competitive pitches, international realignments and new brands from existing clients.

Other agencies employ some slick tactics to prise open the doors to rivals' clients.

Clemmow Hornby Inge and TBWA\London both hold regular supper club dinners. Existing and potential senior clients are invited, along with a list of editors and matchmakers, to hear a high-profile speaker talk in a small, intimate environment.

Another slick move by CHI, which achieved a new-business conversion rate of 50 per cent, is having an advisory board that includes the Carphone Warehouse chief executive, Charles Dunstone; Peter Mandelson MP; the chief executive of the Prudential, Mark Wood, and Ellis Watson, the general manager of Mirror Group Newspapers. This line-up not only guides the agency, but provides introductions to their powerful friends.

Sarah Gold, the agency's new-business director, says: "The majority of our growth has come from our clients who have given us more brands or projects or have recommended us to their friends on the strength of the big idea we developed with them."

An analysis piece about high-achieving agencies would not be complete without mention of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Campaign's Agency of the Year in 2003. Out of 21 new-business opportunities, BBH converted 47.3 per cent, giving it £73.3 million worth of new UK business last year.

Its new-business director, Richard Exon, is ultimately responsible for doing the legwork when it comes to attracting potential clients.

He credits the agency's strong identity and creative product, coupled with selective pitching, as contributing to its success.

"Agencies perform well in pitches when they are confident in themselves as a brand and in their proposed solution," he says. "I'm conscious, if I'm in a credentials meeting, that 22 years of clients such as Levi's and Audi is one hell of a calling card."

Long-term relationships such as these have to be attributed to the service the agency provides, which means clients often award more work based on their satisfaction with previous campaigns.

Exon believes that this has a lot to do with the agency's creative reputation.

"The best way of attracting new opportunities is by performing well on the accounts we already have. We expect to be judged by our work," he says.

Another agency that is perceived to be in rude health and adopts a choosy approach to clients is Mother. It ended 2003 on a high, with the phenomenal achievement of muscling in on the £44 million Boots business in collaboration with other renegade agencies such as Naked and Craik Jones Watson Mitchell Voelkel.

The Mother founder and partner Stef Calcraft reiterates the importance of producing good work, but adds that it is important to work with clients who allow the agency's creative talent to shine. This was demonstrated when it split with Batchelors last year citing creative differences. "Doing truly great work attracts the best clients, and with the best clients comes the opportunity to do even better," Calcraft explains. "That also means that you sometimes have to say no to prospective clients if they don't present that opportunity."

What these figures demonstrate is that there are a number of different ways of winning new business, but it's down to much more than how effective the new-business decision is. Creative work, friends in high places, a high profile and clever ways of courting clients all contribute to giving an agency a competitive edge.

OPPORTUNITIES TO PITCH

Rank Agency Opportunities to pitch

1 J. Walter Thompson 27

2 M&C Saatchi 22

3 Bartle Bogle Hegarty 21

4 DDB 19

5 TBWA\London 18

6 WCRS 17

7= Grey 16

7= Delaney Lund Knox Warren 16

9= Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO 15

9= Mother 15

11= Clemmow Hornby Inge 14

11= St Luke's 14

11= McCann-Erickson 14

14= Soul 13

14= Publicis 13

16 Saatchi & Saatchi 11

17 Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy 10

18= Campbell Doyle Dye 9

18= Partners BDDH 9

18= CheethambellJWT 9

18= Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R 9

Defined as open or roster pitches plus wins without pitches.

All pitches completed in 2003.

WINNING WITHOUT A PITCH

Rank Agency Invitations to pitch

1= CheethambellJWT 3

1= J. Walter Thompson 3

3= M&C Saatchi 2

3= Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy 2

3= Delaney Lund Knox Warren 2

3= Grey 2

7= Soul 1

7= Clemmow Hornby Inge 1

7= HHCL/Red Cell 1

7= Mustoes 1

7= St Luke's 1

7= McCann-Erickson 1

7= WCRS 1

7= TBWA\London 1

Where there was no previous relationship.

TOTAL BILLINGS WON

Rank Agency Total Billings (pounds m)

1 Clemmow Hornby Inge 86.2

2 Grey 73.8

3 Bartle Bogle Hegarty 73.3

4 J. Walter Thompson 62.5

5 DDB 61.0

6 Mother 58.0

7 Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO 45.2

8 HHCL/Red Cell 42.5

9 Delaney Lund Knox Warren 41.6

10 TBWA\London 39.5

11 CheethambellJWT 21.2

12 Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy 17.5

13 Leith 16.5

14 Partners BDDH 16.2

15 Quiet Storm 12.5

16 Maher Bird Associates 12.0

17= Farm 10.0

17= Fallon 10.0

17= Soul 10.0

20 BDH\TBWA 9.5

INVITATIONS TO PITCH

Rank Agency Invitations to pitch

1 M&C Saatchi 18

2 J. Walter Thompson 17

3 Delaney Lund Knox Warren 16

4= Mother 15

4= TBWA\London 15

6= WCRS 12

6= Clemmow Hornby Inge 12

8= DDB 11

8= St Luke's 11

8= Bartle Bogle Hegarty 11

Defined as pitches where a client could choose from all

agencies, rather than limited by roster,etc.

TOTAL WINS

Rank Agency Wins

1 Bartle Bogle Hegarty 12

2 J. Walter Thompson 11

3 Grey 10

4= McCann-Erickson 9

4= Delaney Lund Knox Warren 9

6= M&C Saatchi 7

6= Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO 7

6= TBWA\London 7

9= CheethamBellJWT 6

9= Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy 6

9= Quiet Storm 6

CONVERSION

Rank Agency Pitches won %

1 HHCL 100.0

2 Quiet Storm 85.7

3= Mustoes 62.5

3= VCCP 62.5

5 Leith 60.0

6= Clemmow Hornby Inge 50.0

6= Delaney Lund Knox Warren 50.0

6= RKCR/Y&R 50.0

9 Bartle Bogle Hegarty 47.3

10 Grey 46.1

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