A complete turnaround in its creative product, which rounded off what was an already impressive business story, rendered Agency Republic as the obvious choice for Campaign's Digital Agency of the Year award.
Beating Dare, the three-times title holder, was a tough job, but under the creative directorship of Andy Sandoz (bottom right), who was appointed last year, the agency delivered ambitious campaigns across a wide range of clients and proved itself a worthy successor.
Agency Republic displayed a good understanding of how to take advantage of new online developments, such as social networking, and exploit the web's enormous potential as a branding medium. Rather than developing standalone ads or virals for boutique clients, Agency Republic has successfully carved out a position as an agency that develops integrated strategies aimed at solving business problems for big brands.
Added to an impeccable new-business and client retention record, and its impressive management line-up, the panel felt Agency Republic was unbeatable in 2006.
Among its highlights were campaigns for Baileys, Mercedes and Radio 1. For Diageo, it built a website that helped drinkers plan the perfect social event. It contained drinks recipes involving Baileys, which can be mixed on screen; there was even a virtual blender to mix them, controlled by the user's mouse.
Its work for Omnicom-aligned Mercedes proved that it is possible for a network-owned agency to take creative risks with big pieces of international business. Using the letters of the alphabet, the campaign highlights the attention to detail that goes into making its cars. It won a silver at the Campaign Digital Awards.
One of the agency's most acclaimed pieces of work this year was its Radio 1 "Musicubes" campaign. The work engages 15- to 25-year-olds by allowing them to demonstrate their musical tastes on sites such as MySpace.
The strength of the work is attributable to Sandoz and the planning director, Patrick Griffith (bottom, second from right). Between them, they've made it their mission to produce eye-catching creative work for blue-chip clients. The husband-and-wife creative team, Gemma Butler and Gavin Gordon-Rogers, also deserve a mention for being responsible for many of its coveted campaigns, such as Radio 1, O2 and Mercedes.
However, the agency's ability is not limited to just the creative and planning departments, with much of its success attributable to unbeatable business nous. Its chief executive, Martin Brooks (bottom left), was made Campaign's Digital Achiever of the Year and Jon Claydon (bottom, second from left), its founder and chairman, is responsible for protecting Agency Republic's strong culture, despite its Omnicom ownership.
As a result of its strong line-up, and talent for developing industry-leading creatives, Agency Republic became the opponent its rivals dread in a pitch situation. It won the pitches for two of this year's most coveted brands: Nokia's global music initiative and MTV's online advertising account.
It also scooped one of two hotly contested digital places on Unilever's UK below-the-line roster, and has since netted briefs for Dove, Lynx and Impulse. In addition to its Radio 1 work, it was also awarded the online brief for BBC Mundo, BBC Worldwide's Spanish language service, in a pitch against fellow BBC roster agency Modem Media. It has benefited from its position in Zulu, Omnicom's below-the-line network led by Claydon and Brooks, winning a brief for the launch of Sony's PlayStation 3 console next year.
Momentum for success was good; in 2005 its turnover rose to £18.2 million from £11.2 million in 2004. Staff numbers also increased by 70 per cent to 80 people, and its planning department doubled in size in 2006.
The agency also broadened its business offer with the launch of Media Republic, whose clients include Blockbuster, BBC World Service, O2, Goodyear Dunlop Tyres and Royal Mail Group. Run by Martin Kelly, the media director, it strengthens Agency Republic's offering to clients, as well as attracting new ones.
Profero Profero put forward a good case in 2006. Creative muscle may have been lacking in the past, but it was there in spades in 2006.
Its work for COI was among the highlights. Its "mess with your mind" campaign for the Home Office's Frank website involved a series of darkly humorous ads that dramatised the side-effects of drug use.
Also, its online campaign for the Home Office, warning children of the danger of paedophiles online, scooped the gong for Best Charity and Public Sector campaign at the Campaign Digital Awards this year.
Its most high-profile work has been for Mini. It won the business in June with an idea featuring a Mini wheel-spinning out of a banner. It ended the year with a humorous campaign to raise brand awareness, allowing users to help a driver accelerate by clicking their mouses.
Other new-business triumphs included a brief from COI to develop a website for a smoke-free England, and Western Union's digital account. These accounts contributed to a claimed operating profit margin of 16 per cent this year, up from 11 per cent last year; its UK team grew by 40 per cent as a result.
The success is attributed to a stable team of the managing director, Wayne Arnold, who was elected chairman of IPA Digital this year; Daniele Fiandaca, the chief operating officer; and its creative director, Matt Powell.
Dare Dare, as ever, ran a good race. It's a measure of Dare's talent that it became Campaign's Agency of the Year three years running. To take the title again in 2006 would have been nothing short of miraculous.
That Dare did not win in no way suggests it has taken its foot off the gas. It continues to produce industry-leading work. This year's Christmas campaign for Lynx, called "blow", the follow-up to last year's cheeky "feather" campaign, shows that the creative partner, Flo Heiss, and the creative director, James Cooper, are working to very high standards.
Dare created the "domino coins" campaign for Vodafone. The three-minute film, seen by more than one million people on YouTube and Kontraband alone, showed the world's most expensive domino chain: £10,000 in £1 coins, lined up and toppled to promote Vodafone's sponsorship of Sky's The Big Idea.
On the new-business front, Dare became Vodafone's first retained digital creative agency. It won a place on Unilever's global digital roster, picking up the digital marketing strategy for Magnum and Flora. It was also appointed by the Home Office to work alongside Profero on the creative development task for Frank and to develop online advertising for the National Blood Service. It also won the pan-European digital advertising and web design account for Zanussi Electrolux's range of household appliances.
One of the highlights of 2006 was poaching Lee Wright from Grand Union, to become its first-ever managing director. At a time when talent is in short supply, Dare flexed its muscle to attract one of the sector's brightest stars.
Recent winners: Dare (2005); Dare (2004); Dare (2003); glue London (2002)
HIGHLIGHTS OF 2006
- January: Martin Kelly, the media director at Unique Digital, is appointed to head Agency Republic's media department.
- February: Appointed by Diageo to develop the global digital marketing strategy for Bailey's.
- June: Wins Cannes silver Cyber Lion for Mercedes A-S.
- July: Appointed by Nokia to handle global music platform business in a pitch against Ogilvy Interactive and glue London. Wins a place on the newly created below-the-line Unilever roster in the UK. Wins BBC Mundo, the BBC World Service's Spanish language service, in a pitch against a fellow BBC roster agency, Modem Media.
- September: Wins silver at Campaign Digital Awards for Mercedes A-S work. The chief executive, Martin Brooks, is named Campaign's Digital Achiever of the Year. Launches Media Republic, which opens with clients including O2, BBC Worldwide, Blockbuster and Cancer Research UK and billings of £18 million.
- November: Wins the roster pitches for Unilever's Dove and Impulse accounts.