School Reports 2014: Initiative

Tesco
Tesco

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

Initiative
Type of agency Media
Company ownership Interpublic
Key personnel Andy Jones chief executive, IPG
Mediabrands, UK
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
Declared income n/s*
Total accounts at year end 40
Accounts won 6 (biggest: Travelodge)
Accounts lost 1 (Burger King)
Traditional 80%
Digital 20%
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.

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