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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
However, it was the November deal to secure the media business of the
direct marketing agency, Brann, that really helped to make MGM’s
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
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.