Creative Agency of the Year: Adam & Eve

The three-year-old agency has cemented its reputation for creative excellence and being quick to devise effective campaigns that fulfil clients' requirements, whatever the budget.

John Lewis ad by Creative Agency of the Year Adam & Eve
John Lewis ad by Creative Agency of the Year Adam & Eve

The crowning of Adam & Eve as Marketing's Creative Agency of the Year, less than three years after its creation, reflects the hot shop's meteoric rise.

Founded by former RKCR/Y&R bosses James Murphy, Ben Priest and David Golding, along with exNaked head of strategy Jon Forsyth, Adam & Eve opened its doors for business only in January 2008. Yet over 2010, agency billings more than doubled from £27m to £60m.

The judges praised Adam & Eve's 'excellent business development', 'strong leadership team', and creative work - which, they said, is 'right on the money'.

The judges commended Adam & Eve's ability to pick up new business in a difficult climate while maintaining creative excellence on existing accounts.

With its epic cradle-to-retirement John Lewis TV ad, which used an acoustic cover of the Billy Joel song She's Always a Woman as its soundtrack, the agency created one of the biggest talking points in the ad world of the past 12 months.

Adam & Eve has gained a name for being quick to get to grips with clients' core challenges - a reputation that has fuelled impressive growth, adding about £30m in new business over the past year. In 2010, its new-client haul has including Foster's, Save The Children, Silver Spoon and Benecol.

With its popular campaign for lager brand Foster's, the agency adapted the above-the-line concept for digital media channels. At the time of writing, the Australian characters that feature in the brand's ads, Brad and Dan, have 20,000 fans on Facebook, while Foster's Twitter feed has been adapted to incorporate the campaign.

Adam & Eve has also shown itself adept at working on a tight budget. For Silver Spoon's Half Spoon variant, sales soared 25% year-on-year within six weeks of the agency's ad campaign hitting TV screens.

Staff turnover has been very low since launch - just 5% - but the agency continues to hire what it describes as an 'eclectic' range of talent, including creative directors Ben Tollet and Emer Stamp, who joined from DDB UK. Rob Isaacs also joined, from EHS 4D, to become head of social strategy.

The agency set out its stall to devise first-class creative concepts that work across both traditional media and digital channels. This year, Adam & Eve turned that into reality. For this, it is a worthy winner of Creative Agency of the Year.

Focus on - John Lewis

Adam & Eve's founding partner, James Murphy, appeared regularly in a BBC Two fly-on-the-wall documentary Inside John Lewis. The show featured the filming of the retailer's Christmas TV ad, which used a slow version of Guns 'N' Roses classic Sweet Child O' Mine.

It was the next ad, however, with its sentimental charting of a woman's life from birth to old age, that pierced the general public's consciousness in way that few commercials manage. A wave of media coverage included features on BBC Radio 4 and articles in titles from the Financial Times to The Sun. Commentators described it as 'the ad that made the nation cry'.

John Lewis reaped the rewards for this creative excellence. In the wake of the campaigns, half-year profits soared 77% year on year, while sales via johnlewis.com grew by 36% over the period.

Best of the rest

Last year's winner of Marketing's Creative Agency of the Year, VCCP, made a valiant attempt to defend its crown, being awarded this year's runner-up prize. It was always going to be tough to improve on its phenomenal success in 2009, which included the creation of a bona fide pop-culture phenomenon with its Comparethemarket.com ads.

However, the judges commented that VCCP's integrated offering has 'never been more timely or relevant'. Indeed, with only three clients using the agency solely for advertising, it is clear that VCCP is closer than most to a truly integrated proposition.

New business continued to flow in, with the agency picking up 16 additional clients, including Freesat, Gatwick Express and Virgin Money. VCCP also impressed with its 'particularly strong' contribution to clients' business growth. Its humorous 'Thank you cows' ad campaign for Muller Corners, for example, helped boost sales by 17.5%. It also continued to deliver results for founding client O2, driving the recruitment of 1.5m members to its O2 Priority loyalty scheme.

For an agency long-dismissed with the quip 'Grey by name, grey by nature', Grey London has been making a few waves with its increasing reputation for creativity.

Under the stewardship of chief executive Chris Hirst, the judges said the agency's creative work for brands including Honda, Toshiba and Cathedral City is getting 'more interesting and stronger'. They were also struck by Grey's new business record when 'competition has never been higher', picking up accounts for Lucozade, Ginsters and Brother, and a place on Sony's global roster.

Carol-Ann Stewart, oral care marketing director at GlaxoSmithKline and a business leader member of The Marketing Society, who nominated Grey, said: 'I have noticed significant changes in the agency and get a real sense that there is strong direction and leadership, not just from the management team at Grey, but also from the people who work on my brands.'

Few London ad agencies are able to match Mother's reputation for creative excellence. In 2010, it once more proved itself at the cutting edge of creative thought. The judges commended its work for clients including Boots, Stella Artois, Match.com and Ikea.

Mother succeeded in several new business pitches during the course of the year. New clients include Asos.com, IKEA, Travelodge, Butlins and New Look. With its long-standing leadership team, including all five founding partners, the judges commented that the agency continues to 'push the boundaries of what the industry has to offer'.

An honourable mention goes to DDB UK, which nabbed 2010's biggest piece of new business in Virgin Media. With the coming together of ad agency DDB London with its digital and direct sister agencies, Touch and Tribal, DDB is clearly making a genuine stab at creating an integrated model.

Also shortlisted were Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, CHI & Partners, Karmarama and MCBD.

Previous winners
2009: VCCP
2008: Beattie McGuinness Bungay
2007: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO
2006: RKCR/Y&R