School Reports 2015: Albion

EHarmony
EHarmony

Score: 6  Last year: 6

Jason Goodman, Albion’s chief executive, had been talking about having another crack at the US market for some time. He first tried with Albion West Coast, which launched in 2011 with Air New Zealand as its sole client, and then closed in 2012 when said client buggered off.

Despite Goodman’s ambition, few foresaw his solution: selling a majority stake in Albion to Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal & Partners, owned by MDC Partners. The cash deal is worth between £20 million and £30 million for Albion’s 15 shareholders, who retain a 25 per cent stake in the agency.

KBS, though more corporate than Albion, does appear to share its values: it has divisions devoted to investing in start-ups and tech.

Naturally, the sale meant Albion spent a portion of 2014 navel-gazing. There were some wins and new campaigns to report, but fewer than usual.

Addison Lee, which is under attack from Uber and other taxi apps, appointed Albion, which delivered a campaign highlighting the company’s business-class credentials called "calm in the chaos".The agency also created entertaining TV spots for eHarmony and MusicMagpie and, just as positive – if not for Albion’s revenue –  it waved goodbye to the Wonga puppets. The shop was quick to claim the moral high ground, much to AAR and Wonga’s surprise.

Albion’s best work in 2014 was probably its 24-hour art hackathon at the Tate Modern for the Arts Council (another new client) and the BBC. The project was called The Space and was led by Albion’s PR division, Drive, which managed to secure the artist Ai Weiwei as a contributor.  Indeed, Albion’s PR and social arms are driving its growth – and that probably doesn’t strike the entrepreneurial Goodman as a problem: growth is growth.

How the agency scores itself: 8

How the agency rates itself: 2014 saw the sale of a majority stake to MDC Partners, giving us world-class capabilities in the US and China. We achieved a third consecutive year of double-digit growth, with wins including eHarmony, Addison Lee and Rightster. We continued to invest in our business-reinvention offer, creating diverse and innovative work, from the award-winning product Snapt for Comparethemarket.com to the 24-hour art hackathon for the BBC’s The Space.

Albion
Type of agency Creative
Company ownership MDC Partners
Nielsen billings 2014 £28m
Nielsen billings 2013 £41m
Declared income £8.5m
Total accounts at year end 38
Accounts won 17 (biggest: n/s)
Accounts lost 0
Number of staff 78 (+7%)
Key personnel Jason Goodman chief executive
Glyn Britton chief strategy officer
Nick Darken group creative partner

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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