Arif Durrani, head of media at Campaign, editor of Media Week
Arif Durrani, head of media at Campaign, editor of Media Week
A view from Arif Durrani

The stories behind the winners during this year's industry awards season

One of the true highlights of my job is the bird's-eye view I get of the UK's media landscape. This has come into acute focus over the past few weeks, which have been dominated by awards judging.

I was privileged to be involved in Newsworks’ inaugural Planning Awards judging last week. The process, chaired by Unilever’s Marc Mathieu, aimed to celebrate the best campaigns involving newsbrands.

The winners have yet to be announced, but one thing that came to the fore was how innovation in the sector is currently being driven by the few. Notably, The Daily Telegraph, in all its forms, featured time and again as the standout media owner leading the charge.

Dave King’s commercial team is clearly doing something right because, whether the brief involved thermal coverwraps, last-gasp responsive ads, branded content or interactive iPad campaigns, the Telegraph name was never far from mind. I happened to be sat next to Helen Normoyle, the chief marketing officer at DFS, who casually opined: "The Telegraph really are a joy to work with."

Any perceptions of the greying, rigid Tory rag of old have long been banished by continued innovation and clear investment in its products and talent. The Telegraph benefits from having a large digital audience – which is increasingly a known entity thanks to its metered paywall – in addition to strong, mass reach print brands and a progressive tablet edition. The business has also been perhaps surprising liberal when it comes to exploring the new dyanmics of editorial and advertising.

Another standout on Newsworks’ shortlist is Manning Gottlieb OMD. Not the loudest Omnicom agency, but it produced consistent, quality work that speaks for itself. And it was this strength and depth that saw the agency crowned Media Week’s Agency of the Year last week.

Under Robert Ffitch, MG OMD has spent the past 12 months refining its offering. It is a process best described as "fixing the roof when the sun is shining", having undergone a major operational restructure, not least in social, research and campaign management, while also enjoying its most successful year to date. You can see what the recognition meant to Ffitch in my interview with him immediately after he picked up the award here.

'Not the loudest Omnicom agency, but MG OMD produced consistent, quality work that speaks for itself'

MG OMD shared media’s biggest stage, in front of 1,400 peers, with Fru Hazlitt’s revitalised ITV. The broadcaster built on a strong 2012 to sweep the boards and take Sales Team of the Year. Judges noted the new can-do attitude and openness pervading ITV right now.

Hazlitt's 360-strong sales team has been motivated around three pillars of its new culture this year: Energy (to be passionate about everything); Bravery (to take risks and not be afraid to fail); and Pride - meaning everything they try and do has to be brilliant.

And when it comes to sales, facts speak louder than words. Non-spot revenues have increased by 32 per cent, an addition of over £30 million. ITV has also introduced 370 new advertisers to television, equating to more than £100 million of new business while its share of spot revenue is up by £50m.

Among its most memorable work this year has been  its ‘live Helmand’ ads for the Territorial Army. The campaign which saw live footage from Afghanistan broadcast on ITV, generated 14,000 new enquiries for TA. Like so many of the best ideas in media today, it has many collaborators – namely MediaCom, JWT and ITN Productions.

Behind much of this high watermark of a year is client bravery. Nowhere has this been encapsulated as well as in Carat’s Bodyform campaign, "the truth". We all know the dry video from the fictional chief executive Caroline Williams, shot in Carat’s offices with Rubber Republic.

There were many reasons why SCA could have eschewed this risky strategy. But it stuck with it and this has paid dividends, with a return on investment calculated at 75:1. It also paved the way for a complete reawakening of the brand. Not bad for a reactive media idea formulated in just a few days.