School Reports 2015: SapientNitro


Score: 8  Last year: 9

Momentous barely begins to describe the events of 2014 at SapientNitro, the year in which its parent, Sapient, agreed to join the Publicis Groupe family in a £2.3 billion deal and it came within a whisker of capturing British Airways and becoming the first digital player to break into the mainstream.

Such a performance explains why Maurice Lévy, the Publicis boss, describes Sapient as a "crown jewel" and why he sees its arrival as accelerating the company’s objective of getting more than 50 per cent of its revenue from digital by 2018.

Whether or not Lévy’s great rival, Sir Martin Sorrell, will be proved right in describing Publicis as behaving like "a jilted lover" after its failed engagement to Omnicom remains to be seen; certainly, some analysts suggest Sapient’s recent growth record does not justify the premium Publicis is paying for it.

That said, SapientNitro has shown a relentless determination to grow further from its digital roots. As well as the near miss on British Airways, it also made the final stages of the race for BMW’s UK creative account.

Nevertheless, there was a respectable flow of new client arrivals. Kia, the South Korean car-maker, named Sapient its lead European digital agency. The shop also won a four-way pitch for the Let There Be Beer (now Beer Alliance) initiative, landed the European HTC account and became Lycra’s global agency of record, resulting in a worldwide TV and print campaign showcasing the work of the photographer Rankin.

All this coincided with a high-level creative change, with Mark Hunter, the former chief creative officer of Deutsch Los Angeles, taking over as the executive creative director of the London office. Two weeks later, Malcolm Poynton stepped down as the European chief creative officer.

Publicis, determined to amass an unsurpassable digital lead over its rivals, will be driving Sapient hard to achieve it. So no pressure, then.

How the agency scores itself: 8

How the agency rates itself: A year of extraordinary growth and positive change, we won 52 new pieces of business in 2014 – effectively a win a week. Of those, 19 were new clients – including HTC, Lycra and Britain’s Beer Alliance. Our creative pedigree was boosted when Mark Hunter joined as our first executive creative director. We closed the year with the news that we would be joining Publicis Groupe in a $3.7 billion all-cash transaction to form Publicis.Sapient.

Type of agency Creative and digital
Company ownership Publicis Groupe
Declared income £142.8m (2013)
Total accounts at year end 64
Accounts won 19 (biggest: HTC)
Accounts lost 0
Number of staff 1,012 (nominal change)
Key personnel Nigel Vaz senior vice-president and managing director, Europe
Neil Dawson chief strategy officer, Europe
Mark Hunter executive creative director

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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