TOP PERFORMERS OF 1996: MEDIA AGENCY OF THE YEAR: TMD CARAT - It was solid, sustained excellence that gained TMD this new category Manning Gottlieb and New PHD, with improved performances, were worthy runners-up.

Nineteen ninety-six was perhaps not the best year to introduce the new category of Media Agency of the Year. For many specialists, it was a year of consolidation or just getting on with the job in hand. There were few truly outstanding performances to choose from, and, in the event, it was the sustained record of TMD Carat that won the day, with its sister Carat company, Manning Gottlieb Media, a very close second.

Nineteen ninety-six was perhaps not the best year to introduce the

new category of Media Agency of the Year. For many specialists, it was a

year of consolidation or just getting on with the job in hand. There

were few truly outstanding performances to choose from, and, in the

event, it was the sustained record of TMD Carat that won the day, with

its sister Carat company, Manning Gottlieb Media, a very close

second.



Instituting the Media Agency of the Year category is an issue that

Campaign has tussled with for several years. The many elements that

combine to make a great media agency are hard to disentangle. Top-flight

negotiation skills and the ability to buy media competitively are key,

but arguably put the smaller media buyers at a disadvantage.



Quality of planning and buying, to produce cost-effective media, is more

important than ever, but harder to judge, particularly when so many

media companies are still slow in parading evidence of their planning

capabilities.



Peer group esteem is also a good indicator, though praising competitors

is not something that comes easily to many media practitioners. Still,

the question ’who would you least like to be on a pitch with?’ threw up

TMD the most often.



The case for TMD is one of consistent excellence. Alongside the Media

Centre, TMD was head and shoulders above the pack in the media

new-business league in 1995, notching up more than pounds 64 million

worth of wins. A performance which, as the Media Centre proved this

year, is not easy to replicate.



In fact, TMD did almost as well again last year. The company scooped

almost pounds 50 million of new business, which is not a bad performance

for an agency already number two in the market and heading towards

saturation in many of the major categories.



TMD’s year got off to a thumping start with the pounds 7 million Philips

triumph.



The coup was followed by a string of wins in the ensuing months,

including Tambrands, Rank Xerox, Weetabix, Abbey Life and Channel 5.

And, despite a couple of years of frenzied new-business activity, TMD’s

client retention in 1996 was exemplary. Braun represented the only major

defection.



This level of client service was matched by TMD’s growing strengths in

the area of strategic media planning. For 1996 was also the year that

the company’s investment in the planning function under the steer of a

new recruit, Simon King, finally laid to rest the image of TMD as an

agency populated by gorillas with calculators.



Creative media credentials notched up over the year, taking the agency

beyond spot and space buying, include engineering Cadbury’s sponsorship

of the nation’s best-loved soap, Coronation Street. Then there was the

Pretty Polly poster campaign which, quite literally, turned a 64-sheet

on its head to illustrate the model’s impossibly long legs, and the

nifty move to book Channel 5 ads on perimeter boards at Premier League

matches - lots of free commercial messages on the TV and in the

newspapers.



In short, TMD has come of age as a fully rounded communications company,

a fact illustrated by the agency’s excellent showing in a recent survey

of the most impressive advertising agencies. TMD Carat was the only

media company to make it on to the top ten when big-spending clients

were asked to name who they would be most likely to put on a

pitch-list.



For Manning Gottlieb Media, a very close runner-up to TMD, 1996 was

about enhancing its reputation as one of London’s hottest young media

shops.



The agency saw its billings rise from pounds 43 million at the start of

the year to almost pounds 75 million by the year end, a surge in

additional billings which was reflected in the agency’s growth in

profitability, up 100 per cent year on year at pounds 503,000 with a

projection of pounds 900,000 for 1996/97.



The new business success story is rooted in a mixture of organic growth

combined with a good new-business hit rate. In May, the pounds 20

million Goldfish account arrived. In October, Britannia Building Society

and Teletext were added to the client list. Earlier that month Eurostar

centralised its media with the agency, adding a further pounds 6 million

to the existing pounds 7 million MGM won in March. The year finished on

a high note with Royal and Sun Alliance’s direct sell centralised media

business.



However, it was the November deal to secure the media business of the

direct marketing agency, Brann, that really helped to make MGM’s

year.



The deal represents more than a new-business win. It is seen by both

parties as a partnership that can be used to drive new business and

eventually act as a second-string agency that could deal with MGM client

conflicts.



Organic growth included Virgin Direct, which increased from pounds 2

million in 1995 to pounds 6 million in 1996, and is set to grow again

this year. In April, extra Johnson and Johnson business arrived, as part

of an pounds 8 million centralisation.



Finally, Virgin Express, the short-haul European airline operator, came

to the agency, attracted by its experience with Virgin Atlantic.



An honourable mention goes to PHD, which was reborn as New PHD during

the year when the former PHD - Pattison Horswell Durden - was bought by

Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO.



The agency has extended its brand in a number of areas such as

sponsorship - through PHD Big Time - and in the regions with the Cogent

joint venture, PHD Compass. New PHD has reinvented its brand and

positioned itself for the future. It has achieved fantastic awareness

and is set to capitalise on its strengths in the year ahead.



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