No-one said that winning Campaign’s Direct Agency of the Year meant
that you had to have spent the past 12 months concentrating on direct
mail. It’s no secret that there have been many changes in the industry
over the past few years, and FCA! embodies many of the ’new’ principles
that direct-marketing agencies are now taking on board, namely effective
brand response through media-neutral ideas.
It’s not only the cutting-edge creativity that makes FCA! stand out,
however. It has transcended the boutique label (while not shedding any
of its creative acumen) and attracted heavyweight clients who want
accountable business solutions.
It has been just as successful in cutting a dash with its above-the-line
work as it has for its direct marketing. Perhaps, of all the agencies
shortlisted for the title, FCA! may be the least happy to win, as it has
proved more than capable of scrapping with the big boys above the
It has pounds 55 million in billings, according to MMS, and 30 per cent
of its output going on to television.
Having beaten Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, BMP DDB and Euro RSCG Wnek
Gosper to the Action 2000 brief, FCA! launched a serious push warning
the UK business community about the perils of ignoring the Millennium
Bug. Through this, the agency proved itself to dissenters who questioned
the COI’s decision to give such an important piece of business to
anything other than a traditional above-the-line agency.
The COI’s faith in the agency was reinforced by the award of the New
Deal for Lone Parents brief and it triumphed again over the above-the-
line agencies when it picked up the National Bingo Gaming Association’s
pounds 5 million brief to breathe a bit of life into the game.
FCA! has maintained its position as the agency to go to for effortless
integration, nifty media choices and a definite look askance for clients
who may have simply been happy with an obvious solution. It’s perhaps
surprising that one of the most outstanding through-the-line campaigns
of the past year is for the Wales Tourist Board.
At the helm, the combination of the creative abilities of Shaun McIlrath
and Ian Harding - the joint creative partners - and the business acumen
of the chairman, Chris Parry, has proved a potent one. And to further
boost the agency’s obvious new-business appeal, Samantha Smith, the
former marketing director of McDonald’s, Demon Internet and Burger King,
was drafted in as a fourth managing partner. With her impressive
marketing credentials, she is becoming increasingly the business front
of the agency and is emerging as Parry’s heir apparent.
There are three other agencies whose performance has stood out above
others. Lowe Direct can finally be forgiven for plundering GGT Direct
when it set up, having become one of the fastest-growing agencies of
recent years. Aside from account wins such as ONdigital, Saab UK and the
establishment of Lowe Plus to handle Prudential’s Egg, Lowe Direct
addressed the creativity issue by pulling in the highly rated Roddy Kerr
and Arthur Parshotam and increased its gross profit by 75 per cent to
pounds 6.3 million.
HPT Brand Response cannot be overlooked in a feature celebrating the
high spots of 1998, even though it was only in operation for two thirds
of the year. The heavyweight trio of Steve Harrison, Tim Patten and
Martin Troughton hit the ground running when it launched, pulling in
Royal & SunAlliance, Virgin Atlantic, Granada Sky Broadcasting and
Telstra for starters. It has now moved into larger premises and has
staff of 21.
Finally, WWAV Rapp Collins deserves a mention for its sheer
It dominates with a huge lead over its nearest rivals and continues to
grow, recording a pounds 71.4 million turnover in 1998.
Previous winners: Evans Hunt Scott (1997), Barraclough Hall Woolston