Score: 5 Last year: 5
Initiative will be hoping 2014 proves to be far more stable than 2013. The forced exit of the chief executive Alex Altman in March seemed to confirm the perilous state of the business and, arguably, the unhealthy grip of its uber-client Tesco.
The agency was further rocked when it lost Burger King’s £12 million media business in the summer, after a regional review.
Throughout the ensuing transition, led by the group leader Andy Jones, the one thing everyone could agree on was the vital role the managing director Anna Watkins would play in steering Initiative’s new course. So her decision to jump ship to head The Guardian’s Labs venture in September left even the agency’s most vocal ambassadors reeling.
Initiative has set about repositioning itself under the respected guidance of the new managing director, Sally Weavers. A steely determination and circling of the wagons helped the embattled agency avoid a completely disastrous year. Winning Travelodge’s £15 million media business in October represented Initiative’s biggest new account in a decade. A great time to pull it out of the bag, but also confirmation of just how lacklustre the agency had been on the new-business front.
There were six account wins in total, including Amazon and StanJames.com. A "year of positive change" is how the agency reflects on 2013; an acknowledgement of the new management team in place and repositioning of the shop around the buzzwords "fast, brave, decisive, simple".
That Initiative scores itself "an excellent 8" suggests bullishness. The dependence on Tesco – representing more than 40 per cent of its total billings – continues to loom large. In 2014, it needs to do all it can to dissuade the supermarket from calling a review of its media business.
How Initiative rates itself: 8
Initiative's year in a Tweet: Great year: new leadership, happy clients, awards, impressive new biz & commercial results – all made possible by brilliant people #FBDS
|Type of agency||Media|
|Key personnel||Andy Jones chief executive, IPG|
|Sally Weavers managing director|
|David Grainger head of strategy|
|Lee Ramsay head of innovation|
|Ben Walton head of digital|
|Nielsen billings 2013||£169m|
|Nielsen billings 2012||£171m|
|Total accounts at year end||40|
|Accounts won||6 (biggest: Travelodge)|
|Accounts lost||1 (Burger King)|
|Number of staff||118 (+4%)|
Score key: 9 Outstanding 8 Excellent 7 Good 6 Satisfactory 5 Adequate 4 Below average 3 Poor 2 A year to forget 1 Survival in question
Footnote: *indicates where agencies claim the corporate governance constraints of the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation.