Media Agency of the Year and Grand Prix winner: PHD

An array of outstanding creative work as well as its continuing commitment to hiring, retaining and training its staff to high standards made for a memorable year for the agency, writes Nicola Clark.

Sainsbury's: PHD's work helped the chain record its strongest Christmas sales to date
Sainsbury's: PHD's work helped the chain record its strongest Christmas sales to date

PHD has been named Marketing's Media Agency of the Year for the second year in a row, capping a great 12 months for the agency.

Despite pressure on margins and economic uncertainty, PHD has established itself as a hub of creative big ideas and proved that media agencies can lead the way in creative thinking in marketing.

When it comes to lead-agency capability, PHD has proved its worth. It consistently delivers more than just media, and its heritage in content, driven by its Drum division, has placed it at the top of the marketing strategy food chain.

Enterprise Rent-a-Car and eHarmony asked PHD to write briefs for and help run their creative agency review processes, which underlines its role as a trusted partner.

The agency has unveiled a wealth of creative campaigns in the past 12 months, from bringing Cadbury's Spots v Stripes campaign to life through the licensing of hit US game show Minute to Win It on ITV2, to overseeing Sainsbury's strongest set of Christmas sales to date. In addition, it masterminded a multimedia campaign that put consumers in the ads for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.

A stable management team - the average length of service on the PHD board is more than seven and a half years - and investment in its staff has underpinned the growth. PHD says in its submission to Marketing: 'Human capital is at the heart of everything we do. We think that it is our role to contribute not just to the improvement of the people who work here but to the development and learning of the industry at large.' In the past year, 12% of PHD employees were promoted, and staff retention has improved 23% year on year.

In an industry rife with trimmed budgets, PHD has bucked the trend, increasing staff numbers 25% year on year, with its digital head-count up 51% year on year.

The agency has also displayed a commitment to investing in young talent. While many competitors have cut investment in people and research, thus running the risk of becoming more insular in their outlook, PHD employed 33 graduates in the past 12 months. This constituted 8% of the entire graduate intake in the media agency sector, according to the IPA. This continued investment in talent should stand the agency in good stead for the future.

In addition, its commitment to sustainability was noted by the judges.

PHD Sustain, the agency's corporate environmental policy, is a best-in-class example of how to integrate sustainability across the business. A class act in every way, PHD has had a remarkable year, keeping its drive, energy and culture of creativity alive while maintaining rapid growth.

This year, 12% of PHD employees have been promoted, and staff retention has improved 23% year on year


Marketing has introduced a Grand Prix to the Agency of the Year awards for 2011, with the winner chosen by our editorial team, writes Gemma Charles. To qualify for this accolade, the agency must have topped its category convincingly and demonstrated consistent excellence based on the criteria used to judge the awards. While PR agency Red, and LIDA in the direct category, were among those with good cases, the worthy winner of the inaugural Grand Prix award is PHD. Its effective work for clients and dedication to innovation were without equal.

We were also impressed by a continued focus on its people and training, demonstrating an admirable commitment to the agency's long-term health. Even after the awards judging was done and dusted, PHD's year continued to improve. The icing on the cake for the agency came when it won the £125m global Sony Ericsson media account in November.

Manning Gottlieb OMD marked its 21st birthday with a fine year that has earned it the runner-up spot in Marketing's Media Agency of the Year award.

In a tough market, it increased its revenues by 18% and won 21 of the 25 accounts for which it pitched. The rate equates to an 84% new-business conversion rate and contributed to a 42% increase in pre-tax profits for the agency.

The management board was boosted from 10 to 16 people and Manning Gottlieb OMD has stuck to its principles when it comes to keeping its staff happy, not only through well-thought-out training programmes, but also by offering a £1000 bursary to every member of staff to learn a skill of their choosing.

The agency is successfully forging ahead with innovative ways of working, too, reflected in PlayStation's decision to hire OMD and sister agency Drum to deliver its creative solutions, from TV ads to community management.

When it comes to creative thinking and adapting to an ever-changing media environment, Manning Gottlieb OMD has proved to be a top-notch contender.



MEC was the only media agency awarded a place in The Sunday Times' 'Best 100 companies to work for' list this year, a testament to the emphasis it places on forging a cohesive and down-to-earth environment.

More than 94% of staff agreed that MEC is the best agency to work at in London and staff volunteered more than 3000 hours of community service in the past 12 months.

At a time when marketers' concern is growing that their agencies are out of touch with their consumers, MEC's 'Southwark not Soho' approach seems particularly salient.

The agency also maintained its competitive edge, clocking up more than £73m worth of new-business wins. This included the UK's biggest media win, from T-Mobile, and the integrated account for Bupa.

The agency also held on to all of its existing clients - no mean feat in a highly challenging marketplace.


The past 12 months marked a solid year for Mindshare, which chalked up £35m of new-business wins. Crucially, in a time of increasing media fragmentation, its non-traditional fee income rose by a quarter. The agency has made good its use of 'open source planning', where a collaborative approach based on shared knowledge and expertise has replaced the traditional land-grab between competing agencies.


Proving that the size of an agency does not dictate the scale of its creative ambition, the7stars was a solid contender for the Media Agency of the Year award. The strength of the value it delivered is testament to its strong senior management team. The judges praised the agency for excellent style and a job well done. Certainly one to watch.

Also shortlisted was MediaCom.

Manning Gottlieb OMD won 21 of its 25 account pitches


2010: PHD

2009: Mediaedge:cia

2008: Mediaedge:cia

2007: OMD

From Marketing’s Agency of the Year 2011 supplement