Top 300 Agencies: School Reports. (1 of 6)

Despite a below-par year, AMV hung on to its crown as the UK's biggest agency. But JWT closed the gap at the top, with a 13 per cent growth in billings, winning HSBC and Samsung. Clemmow Hornby Inge was the rising star of the top 30, growing by 43 per cent with £38 million worth of new business. Campaign's Agency of the Year, Bartle Bogle Hegarty, wasn't far off the pace - up 30 per cent - and led the field with its trademark creative sparkle.

It was a year to forget for Lowe and Grey though, both suffering hefty losses and management upheaval. MindShare broke Initiative hearts, taking its flagship Unilever media account, while Claydon Heeley Jones Mason was DM's leading light, dominating pitches and impressing at awards shows.

Dare was the envy of the digital world, winning Wanadoo and teasing us with its work for Lynx Touch.

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

ABBOTT MEAD VICKERS BBDO - 5

Last year was a turbulent time for the UK's largest advertising agency, as it fought to keep hold of the market-leading status it carved out for itself in the 90s. While its closest rival, JWT, piles on the billings, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO has not made enough headway against the smaller independents that are beginning to dominate the agency new-business league.

The agency will miss the wisdom and guidance of its long-serving chairman, Michael Baulk, who stepped back in November to leave the chairmanship in the hands of the agency's chief executive, Cilla Snowball, while the managing director, Farah Ramzan Golant, stepped up to the chief executive post.Ramzan Golant may have been groomed for her new role, and in Snowball the agency has a steady chairman, but how it will fare without Baulk's day-to-day leadership is an underlying issue.

A protege of BBDO's worldwide chief executive, Andrew Robertson, Ramzan Golant has the ambition and the drive to make AMV as successful as it once was, but the challenge facing her is enormous.

The agency haemorrhaged several key accounts, including WH Smith and Halfords, in 2004. However, in a dramatic U-turn in June, it won back the £30 million BT Broadband business. Still, BT is no longer AMV's biggest client, showing that its spend has been diverted into other roster agencies.

Pizza Hut called a review at the end of the year and AMV did not make it on to the final pitchlist.

Camelot, Parcelforce and Norwich Union all joined the fold to give AMV a credible new-business ranking. The year ended on a positive note as the agency managed to retain Homebase after a competitive pitch.

By the beginning of 2005, Sainsbury's, AMV's biggest client, had put an end to persistent speculation by confirming it was reviewing its £47 million account. It will be a big test. Through its succession management programme, the agency has demonstrated its belief in its existing team.

In 2005, they need to make the figures work for Omnicom while improving the creative reel.

Type of agency Advertising

Company ownership Omnicom subsidiary

Key personnel Cilla Snowball chairman

Farah Ramzan Golant chief executive

Peter Souter creative director

Nielsen Media Research

billings 2004 £363m

Nielsen Media Research

billings 2003 £350m

Total accounts year end 46

Accounts gained 8

Accounts lost 2

Number of staff 293

Score last year 5

AGENCY REPUBLIC - 8

The past 12 months was a bumper new-business period for Agency Republic. The agency, which reinvented itself in January, dropping its direct offering to focus fully on digital, increased revenues by 77 per cent in 2004.

The pick of the bunch was the £10 million online Egg account, won in partnership with Agency Republic's sister agency, Claydon Heeley Jones Mason. But perhaps more impressive was the Parcelforce win, with Republic persuading the client to shift its entire £3 million marketing budget online.

Other wins of note were Blockbuster, for the online DVD-by-post service launch, Friends of the Earth and Weightwatchers.co.uk. The agency also added O2 Ireland to its existing O2 account and ended the year by winning the pan-European advertising business for the tyre manufacturer Dunlop after a five-way pitch.

The agency's head count rose from 25 to 45 in 2004, and included the key hirings Patrick Griffith, a media strategist in the planning department, and Emma Batchelor, who now runs the O2 business. Losing the creative director, James Cooper, to Dare was a blow, although the appointment of Chris Baylis from Profero will go some way towards plugging the gap.

The standard of its creative remains Republic's Achilles heel, and this is an area that any new creative director will be looking to improve.

There was some impressive work for BBC Worldwide (an account now under review), but its best output remains the work for O2, building on the above-the-line creative from Vallance Carruthers Coleman Priest. O2 acknowledged Agency Republic and the online medium as being instrumental in its 2004 IPA Effectiveness Grand Prix win, and now puts almost one-third of its marketing spend into digital.

Type of agency Digital full service

Company ownership Omnicom subsidiary

Key personnel Martin Brooks managing director

Declared income n/s

Accounts gained 8

Accounts lost 1

Creative 40%

Media planning and buying 30%

Web design/build 15%

Consultancy 15%

Biggest-spending clients O2, BBC, Egg

Number of staff 45

Score last year N/A

AGENCY.COM - 4

The year in which the long-anticipated merger with the digital agency itraffic finally went ahead was a mixed one for Agency.com.

The loss of the Hilton International account in July to Web Liquid, a start-up agency set up by ex-itraffic staff, was swiftly followed by the loss of the UK managing director, Jon Sharpe, the sales and marketing director, Ethan Segal, and the client services director, Matt Gorzkowski.

The trio left to set up their own agency, Play, with M&C Saatchi.

Speculation that Agency.com's second-largest account, British Airways, would follow the trio out of the agency has since been rife, despite a public declaration of support from the client.

The itraffic merger itself led to the loss of another significant account, Wanadoo, which Agency.com was forced to resign due to conflict with its largest client, BT.

There were some advertising account wins across the year, including Cahoot, Dulux and the NSPCC, plus media work for Pfizer and web-build accounts for Sony PlayStation, BP and NGT (National Grid Transco).

Account wins helped to increase revenue by 30 per cent, and staff numbers also increased, from 100 to 120. Key hirings included Heidi Noujeim, who joined as the strategic planning director, and a new media director, Ilana Abrahams-Nolte.

Agency.com is best known for web build rather than for advertising and the loss of the itraffic brand name is a hurdle it will have to get over this year if it is to attract more communications business. That said, campaigns for its new clients Dulux and the NSPCC have been of a high standard and should help demonstrate that the agency can still produce strong online advertising.

Type of agency Digital advertising

Company ownership Omnicom subsidiary

Key personnel Andy Hobsbawm managing director, Europe

Declared income n/s

Accounts gained 7

Accounts lost 2

Creative 35%

Media planning and buying 10%

Web design/build 55%

Biggest-spending clients BT, British Airways, T-Mobile

Number of staff 120

Score last year N/A

AKQA - 6

AKQA's reluctance to reveal its financial results has led in the past to speculation about the health of the business. But, according to figures from Companies House, the agency's UK office brought in revenues of £11.1 million in 2003, a figure it claimed to better by 10 per cent in 2004, while global revenues were up by an even more impressive 22 per cent.

Keeping quiet about its financial performance is a policy that may change this year, following the recent appointment of Modem Media's Michael de Kare-Silver as the managing director for Europe.

De Kare-Silver is an experienced digital marketer and, while at Modem, produced regular market reviews for clients to allay residual fears about the health of the digital sector as a whole.

His appointment also indicates a desire to continue with the overseas expansion policy that AKQA has followed throughout its ten-year history.

In October, it opened a New York office and appointed Lars Bastholm from Framfab to run it, and de Kare-Silver will be looking at the viability of opening AKQA offices across Europe.

The agency also moved into offline for the first time in 2004, creating an outdoor campaign for the Xbox game Fable - an area that could be a lucrative new revenue stream for the business.

It's not all good news, though. A restructure of the business led to 17 staff being shown the door in December, although the chairman, Ajaz Ahmed, insisted the cuts were part of an annual strategic review that the business undertakes every year to respond to the changing digital market.

In other staff changes, the agency's co-founder Matthew Treagus left in October to set up his own business, but maintains links with AKQA.

David Bentley was appointed to the client services director post vacated by Treagus.

The agency has enjoyed some notable new-business successes across the year, getting on the Unilever roster and winning advertising work for Norwich Union, 3M and InterContinental Hotels. But its best creative work still tends to be saved for its web-build projects, something that must change if the agency is to become more visible in adland.

Type of agency Digital advertising

Company ownership Private company

Key personnel Ajaz Ahmed chairman

Declared income n/s

Accounts gained 10

Accounts lost 0

Creative 45%

Media planning and buying 5%

Web design/build 50%

Biggest-spending clients n/s

Number of staff 175

Score last year N/A

ARC LONDON - 6

Arc went into 2004 in a strong position, appearing to have survived its 2003 merger virtually unscathed.

After the previous year's upheaval, which had seen Arc swallow Leonardo and Mike Spicer promoted to managing director, the year began fairly quietly.

Fiona Greggains joined from Proximity in January as the planning and new-business director and the agency concentrated on producing work for existing clients such as its flagship account, Fiat.

Greggains' presence began to be felt after the first three months, when the agency began picking up new business, including briefs from InterContinental Hotels, John West Tuna, Strongbow and Diageo's global Johnnie Walker relationship marketing.

Arc also stepped up its relationship with Procter & Gamble, winning briefs for Ariel, Fairy Liquid and Flash. It has also been working on shopper marketing initiatives including the websites beinggirl.co.uk and homesmadesimple.co.uk.

However, the fact that most of its new clients were also Leo Burnett clients, coupled with Arc's absence from domestic DM pitchlists last year, did nothing to discourage comment that the agency was simply becoming the direct arm of Leo Burnett.

In truth, there was a bigger game being played out within the group.

Globally, Nick Brien took over as the chief executive of Arc Worldwide and set about developing the agency as a global brand, to work more closely with Leo Burnett. The changes served Arc well, propelling it up to sixth place in the Campaign new-business league by December.

There was only one hiccup, in September, when Arc's respected joint executive creative directors, the husband-and-wife team Graham Mills and Jack Nolan , left unexpectedly. However, after four months, Simon Darwell-Taylor, the founder of The Body Shop's in-house creative department, filled the role.

Arc had a solid yet unspectacular year. It will need to get on more domestic pitchlists, independently of Leo Burnett, if it is to retain its credibility as an independent below-the-line outfit.

Type of agency Direct marketing

Company ownership Publicis Groupe subsidiary

Key personnel John Quarry chief executive

Mike Spicer managing director

Nielsen Media Research

billings 2004 £2m

Nielsen Media Research

billings 2003 £3m

Total accounts year end 32

Accounts gained 15

Accounts lost 0

Number of staff 142

Score last year 6

ARCHIBALD INGALL STRETTON - 7

In 2004, Archibald Ingall Stretton completed its transformation from an erratic, inconsistent agency into a serious, well-run business. That transformation began in 2003 with the capture of the £10 million O2 business and, last year, much of the agency's time was spent servicing this tricky account. The relationship has yielded some encouraging work. A campaign for O2's 118 500 directory enquiry service, based around an ice sculpture and a 50-foot headline in the sand on Blackpool beach, was particularly memorable.

The agency also produced some nice pieces for its two car clients, BMW and Skoda. The creative partner Steve Stretton is one of the most respected creatives in the industry and he has, thanks to a spate of big signings, a stronger creative department. It would therefore be nice to see AIS setting the creative agenda and pulling in more awards.

That said, AIS has a good retention record and Stretton has managed to keep its clients happy without ever betraying the agency's fiercely held integrated principles.

AIS's new-business performance was reasonable in 2004. It netted two new charity accounts - Scope and the Climate Group - as well as the Moet Hennessy business, but parted company with the shirt manufacturer Austin Reed after only a year.

The agency increased its income by 30 per cent from 2003, increased its billings from £24 million to £32 million (Nielsen Media Research does not measure below-the-line spend, hence the low figure in the table below) and found the money for 22 new members of staff, including the former EHS Brann planner Bob Udale and the experienced creative team Coleman Sheil and Alex Croft.

Meanwhile, five senior members of staff (the creative director, Matt Morley-Brown, the planning director, Carole Lowe, the group account directors, Alistair Bryan and Xavier Rees, and the company secretary, David Sieff) were invited to join the founders Stretton, Jon Ingall and Stuart Archibald on the agency's board.

Type of agency Direct marketing

Company ownership Private company

Key personnel Stuart Archibald managing partner

Jon Ingall managing partner

Steve Stretton creative partner

Nielsen Media Research

billings 2004 £4m

Nielsen Media Research

billings 2003 £5m

Total accounts year end 9

Accounts gained 3

Accounts lost 0

Number of staff 78

Score last year 8

BARTLE BOGLE HEGARTY - 9

That Bartle Bogle Hegarty became Campaign's Agency of the Year for the second year running in 2004 is testament to the unshakeable business model on which the agency was founded 22 years ago. Yet again, the agency proved that the stability of its management and its trademark understated yet visually powerful creative work are an irresistible calling card to existing and potential clients.

The agency, full to the brim after an active 2003 in new business, was choosy about what it pitched for. It was rewarded with extra work from Unilever (Flora and Signal), as well as a new project from Vodafone. It also looks set to threaten JWT's position on Smirnoff, after winning the £20 million global Smirnoff Ice brief. These wins more than compensated for its failure to convert pitches for Emaar Properties, TNT Mail and Wyeth.

BBH's creative offering included strong work for Robinsons, a new style of dialogue-based ads for Levi's 501 Anti-Fit jeans, a Cannes gold Lion for the strong pan-European "getting dressed" TV spot for Lynx and new work for Castlemaine XXXX.

The only low point of the year was the news that the chief executive, Gwyn Jones, the agency's first-ever graduate trainee, was relocating to run the New York office. However, the agency's faultless succession management planning ensured that no ripples were felt by clients or staff.

The management team was shored up by the appointment of Jim Carroll as the chairman, and Guy Murphy as his deputy chairman. Derek Robson remained in place as the managing director, a role he had been promoted to earlier in the year.

And with John Hegarty back in London after a long search for a new creative director for BBH New York, alongside his co-founder Nigel Bogle and the chief operating officer, Simon Sherwood, there is no reason to think 2005 will be any less outstanding than last year.

Type of agency Advertising

Company ownership Minority-owned by Publicis

Key personnel Nigel Bogle chief executive

John Hegarty chairman and

worldwide creative director

Nielsen Media Research

billings 2004 £202m

Nielsen Media Research

billings 2003 £142m

Total accounts year end 43

Accounts gained 10

Accounts lost 0

Number of staff 370

Score last year 9

BDH\TBWA - 6

Failure to keep its pitching performance at the level of recent years was the main reason for BDH\TBWA's somewhat muted performance during 2004. True, the Manchester shop delivered significant growth, with income and profits up by 9 per cent and 10 per cent respectively over the previous year. However, they were modest in comparison with 2003, when the figures were 19 and 39 per cent.

The agency blamed a less-than-hoped-for number of pitch conversions for the drop in momentum. Where previously it had been winning almost seven out of ten contests, more recently the strike rate has been dropping to less than half. An unsuccessful attempt to prise the £6 million account for Persimmon, the UK's second-biggest housebuilder, from Brahm, was a particular disappointment.

Nevertheless, the year wasn't without its upbeat moments, most notably when, bolstered by the acquisition of Safeway, its supermarket client Morrisons confirmed BDH as the agency for its combined account.

This helped BDH become the second-biggest regional agency, only £1.5 million behind the market leader, Cheethambell JWT, in billings.

At the same time, ATS Euromaster, the Michelin-owned automotive products specialist, the 1001 carpet-care brand, LG Electronics and Unwins seeds all contributed to an increase of more than £10 million in billings.

Existing clients also reaffirmed their faith with new-product-development assignments from Henkel and the Imperial Leather manufacturer PZ Cussons. Meanwhile, Schwan's Consumer Brands, which produces Chicago Town pizzas, picked the agency to launch its Amanda Smith frozen dessert range.

With Danny Brooke-Taylor, its creative director, having satisfied a long-standing hankering to work in London, the agency enters 2005 with a crucial appointment to make. Brooke-Taylor's successor will not only be expected to boost BDH's national profile but to marry creative potency to a solid business performance.

If that happens, the agency will go some way to realising its ambition of adding strategic as well as commercial value to the TBWA network.

Type of agency Advertising

Company ownership Omnicom subsidiary

Key personnel Bryn Butler chairman

Neil Griffiths chief executive

Nielsen Media Research

billings 2004 £54m

Nielsen Media Research

billings 2003 £36m

Total accounts year end 36

Accounts gained 6

Accounts lost 0

Number of staff 150

Score last year 7

BJK&E - 5

After several solid yet undynamic years, BJK&E attempted to step up a gear in 2004 by unveiling a new positioning and moving into a new building.

The agency repositioned under the "business first" banner, with the aim of putting advertisers' business goals at the heart of its communications planning. It's too early to assess what difference this new positioning will make to the agency's fortunes. However, the "business first" proposition is clear and easy to comprehend. It has also enabled the agency to broaden its involvement with existing clients, be it by consulting, advising on licensing rights issues or simply planning press campaigns.

Over the past 12 months, the agency produced some interesting work. The highlight was a poster campaign for Smart Car, in which mini-posters were placed in the gaps between larger billboards to highlight the fact that the Smart Car can fit into tiny parking spaces. The work impressed judges at the Campaign Media Awards, where it won Best Automotive Campaign.

However, BJK&E's main problem remains new business. In 2004, its client list once again barely changed. The agency lost the Australian Tourist Commission account, its first loss in four years, but won the media business for two trade unions, the National Farmers' Union and the Trade Union Congress.

But BJK&E has focused on growing its relationships with existing clients and its new positioning will help it to this end.

However, no matter how good your relationships are, advertisers are only ever a change in marketing director away from changing agencies. And when this eventually happens to BJK&E, the agency will urgently have to get back into the long-forgotten habit of winning business.

Type of agency Media

Company ownership WPP subsidiary

Key personnel Tim Irwin joint managing director

James Jennings joint managing director

Nielsen Media Research

billings 2004 £53m

Nielsen Media Research

billings 2003 £59m

TV billings 39%

Press billings 38%

Outdoor billings 12%

Radio billings 4%

New-media billings 4%

Below-the-line billings 0%

Other 3%

Total accounts year end 23

Accounts gained 3

Accounts lost 1

Number of staff 25

Score last year 5

BLM MEDIA - 7

BLM Media continued to defy its critics in 2004 with another strong year of new business, challenging its larger rivals with its offering of a premium service for mid-sized clients.The agency began the year with the capture of the £10 million Tele2 account, which propelled it high up the Campaign new-business league.

This record continued, with wins from Haven Holidays, Nikon, Suzuki, Dennis Publishing and Lastminute.com.

The agency ended the year having clocked up more than £26 million in new billings, taking it to fourth place in the Campaign new-business league, its loftiest ever position. This was despite HBOS moving its £3 million Intelligent Finance account into Vizeum.

However, the agency's chief executive, Steve Booth, didn't allow any of this activity to detract from the agency's development. Succession management was in evidence as Paul Van Barthold was promoted to chief operating officer across the BLM Group. Pippa Glucklich and Pedro Avery became its joint managing directors.

Elsewhere in the group, its digital division, Quantum, was strengthened with the promotion of Dan Clays to managing director of the 20-strong department. By the end of the year, it had picked up new business from Picture Loans and B&Q, both new clients to the BLM fold, while its fledgling outfit BLM Sports Marketing won a project for Manchester City Football Club. These combined efforts contributed to a 43 per cent jump in the group's billings.

It was another good year for the agency, the kind of success that does not come easily for an independently owned media agency competing against mainly holding company-owned media giants. BLM's achievements will not only prove heartening to its management, but to other independents trying to succeed in an industry where scale and buying clout are often considered to be prerequisites.

Type of agency Media

Company ownership Private company

Key personnel Steve Booth chief executive

Charlie Makin chief strategic officer

Nick Lockett chairman

Nielsen Media Research

billings 2004 £79m

Nielsen Media Research

billings 2003 £37m

TV billings 48%

Press billings 23%

Outdoor billings 9%

Radio billings 6%

New-media billings 10%

Below-the-line billings 0%

Other 4%

Total accounts year end 91

Accounts gained 9

Accounts lost 0

Number of staff 86

Score last year 6

CAMPBELL DOYLE DYE - 3

Campbell Doyle Dye is surely an agency that lives under a shadow of worry. Will Mercedes withstand the temptation to transfer its business to a larger agency? For, after another difficult year, the £17 million business is now the agency's only major account following the £3 million loss of HBOS's Intelligent Finance to Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners.

It was not a big account to lose, but it matters more to CDD than it would to a larger outfit.

Although the agency made an appearance on some significant pitches, including Tetley and, more recently, Bacardi Martini, it failed to convert. Christian Aid was the only new client to add its name to the CDD books.

Rumours suggest the agency plans to bring in a chief executive to steer it, but the right person for the job has proved elusive. Indeed, the only heavyweight hiring of the year arrived in the form of Gav Thompson, who took over as the client services director to head account management and look after the new-business effort.

Creatively, there were few talking points. 2002's "lucky star" for Mercedes has proved to be something of a millstone around the agency's neck - it has so far struggled to replicate creative work of this calibre.

Few would question the talent of the agency's creatives, Walter Campbell, Sean Doyle and Dave Dye, but they need some juicy briefs to get their teeth into in 2005 if the agency is to fulfil the promise it showed at its inception and make the rest of the advertising community sit up and take notice.

Type of agency Advertising

Company ownership Private company

Key personnel Walter Campbell founder

Sean Doyle founder

Dave Dye founder

Nielsen Media Research

billings 2004 £17m

Nielsen Media Research

billings 2003 £20m

Total accounts year end 6

Accounts gained 2

Accounts lost 1

Number of staff 25

Score last year 5

CARAT - 7

After a lamentable 2003, it was vital that Carat didn't put in a similar performance last year. It is to the credit of the agency's management that it rose to the challenge. Although the year started off relatively slowly, a watershed moment came in April when Mark Craze, the UK & Ireland chief executive of Carat's parent, Aegis, announced that he was leaving. He was subsequently replaced by Nigel Sharrocks.

No-one was surprised by Craze's decision: his dissatisfaction at being passed over for the European chief executive's job in favour of Jerry Buhlmann was common knowledge. But the appointment of Sharrocks, the managing director of Warner Brothers, was both surprising and inspired.

His arrival seems to have helped breathe new life into Carat and as well as retaining its prized Diageo account, the agency celebrated some impressive new-business victories.

Starcom Motive's account list seemed to be at the top of Carat's new-business drive and it subsequently seized Lego, the planning for Jacob's Bakery and WH Smith from the agency. Other 2004 wins include GE Finance, First Alternative and Gizmondo.

Carat also underwent some structural change, forging links with the creative agency Barrett Cernis - the Carat Insight account planning team now acts as its planning department - and it broadened its offering with the launch of a customer communications planning team under Shona Forster, the former head of planning at Proximity. There are now a surprisingly large number of strings to the Carat bow, somewhat obscured by the umbrella brand.

Full credit, then, to Carat's management for proving that reports of its demise are premature. While the UK office is now performing strongly, a tough test could be on the horizon with how well they manage to fend off the threat from KR Media now that Bruno Kemoun and Eryck Rebbouh, the influential former Aegis Media Europe bosses, seem to have got the wheels of their new agency machine greased and rolling. Finding a heavyweight and progressive successor to Colin Mills, who quit his managing director post early in 2005, will also be key.

Type of agency Media

Company ownership Aegis subsidiary

Key personnel Nigel Sharrocks chief executive

(Aegis Media UK)

Nielsen Media Research

billings 2004 £577m

Nielsen Media Research

billings 2003 £519m

TV billings 59%

Press billings 24%

Outdoor billings 8%

Radio billings 4%

New-media billings 0%

Below-the-line billings 0%

Other 5%

Total accounts year end 75

Accounts gained 15

Accounts lost 3

Number of staff 308

Score last year 4

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