This was the year when Work Club finally came into its own, delivering work that was useful, populist and fun. The five-year-old agency invented an internet-powered T-shirt and a digital bottle top, gave people the chance to enjoy a beauty spa experience at home and presented a revealing analysis of the brainwaves of football fans.
But Work Club’s performance impressed all-round in 2012. The shop won sought-after new clients, gained business from existing ones, boosted revenue by 21 per cent to £6.5 million and increased its number of staff to 75. It was the work, though, that stood out from the pack and showed a creative department – run by the creative partners, Ben Mooge and Andy Sandoz – thinking laterally and ensuring their clients were providing a unique, fun experience.
Gadgets that needed to be built were high up Work Club’s list of highlights. The agency created what it claims is the world’s first programmable T-shirt as part of Ballantine’s global "leave an impression" campaign. With an LED screen woven into the fabric, the T-shirt contained, among other things, a camera, a microphone and a chip that’s connected via Bluetooth to an iPhone and the internet, allowing the wearer to communicate with others and play music.
Also for Ballantine’s, the agency created an airport installation that allowed people to make visual expressions of their personalities and a platform called "loud blue", which linked a drinker’s customised Instagram photos with bespoke music. A technology-led campaign for Strongbow Gold, meanwhile, centred on a digitally connected bottle top that was designed to trigger unexpected events such as switching on a music track or turning on lights.
Work Club’s "FanLabs" campaign for Sharp involved an ambitious scientific study of Europe’s football supporters. Mobile labs stationed at Uefa Euro 2012 grounds monitored the emotions and scanned the brains of fans as they watched their national teams in action. The results of the survey then informed contextual advertising throughout the tournament and generated a huge amount of PR for the electronics company.
Other projects included digital films for The Sanctuary demonstrating spa treatments, as well as an e-commerce-enabled YouTube channel for the brand. The agency also created an upgraded version of the McLaren "race dashboard", which provided a second screen for Formula One fans and shared driver data with browsers.
On the new-business front, Work Club, led by the chief executive, Martin Brooks, pitched for, and won, the Google+ digital account across Europe.
BT Business hired the shop to develop its "insights" online offering after a pitch and Heineken appointed Work Cub as its lead digital agency across Europe for its premium cider, Strongbow Gold. It also picked up more business from existing clients such as Coca-Cola and Ballantine’s.
Work Club’s pro-bono activity included the D&AD "call for entries" campaign for the organisation’s 50th anniversary and the Creative Spirit initiative, which set out to help people with disabilities find work in creative companies. The agency also brought Jake Kemp, a young participant in the Creative Spirit programme, into the team.
The agency employed 20 new recruits, including the senior creatives Jim Stump and Lucy-Anne Ronayne, formerly at DDB UK and AKQA respectively. It also hired Christy White, a business director from JWT, and Ben Phillips, a senior strategist from BETC Paris.
Work Club’s top tier still comprises its six founding partners – Brooks, Mooge, Sandoz, the chairman, Jon Claydon, and the strategy partners, Paddy Griffith and Lisa De Bonis. They not only deliver stability but instil a culture based on making the agency as enjoyable as a club and holding its people in the same esteem as clients. That way, they reckon, great work gets made. It seems that they may well be on to something.
AKQA leads the "best of the rest" this year after just missing out on its third successive Campaign Digital Agency of the Year title.
But to say AKQA has had a big year would be an understatement. The agency finally decided to sell to Sir Martin Sorrell’s WPP for a whopping £343 million, very nearly exceeding the marcoms giant’s total acquisition budget for the year of £400 million.
Much of AKQA’s 2012 was focused on the build-up to, and the consequences of, the acquisition. The deal was sealed during Cannes week, when the agency bagged a silver Design Lion for its Nike FuelStation work and a bronze in the Mobile category for its Under The Thumb app for MTV.
Aside from the WPP sale, AKQA hatched its own ambitious international expansion plans with office launches in Portland and Paris to service its Nike client.
The agency’s management team, led by its founder and chief executive, Ajaz Ahmed, and chairman, Tom Bedecarré, remains largely in place. There were, however, some departures this year – most notably its head of planning, Rachel Lawlan, who left to join Saatchi & Saatchi. The creative development director, Rick Williams, and managing director of mobile, Daniel Rosen, also left, for Glue Isobar and Joule respectively.
In the other direction, AKQA appointed Matthew Bagwell to the new position of head of strategy services in a bid to evolve its planning approach.
Work from the agency again raised the industry standard. This year’s standout achievements – Nike FuelStation, its MTV app and Nissan’s first short film – were merely the latest in a long list of standout achievements for the pioneering agency.
Jam is well worth a mention for its impressive 45 per cent year-on-year growth. The social media agency, which was born from the remnants of i-level in 2007 and is now part of Engine, accounts for an impressive 10 per cent of all the group’s revenue. Alex Miller, the chief executive, provided strong leadership and the agency won seven new clients while increasing its headcount from 50 to 95. Creative work has improved dramatically under the executive creative director, Wayne Deakin, with the launch of innovative work such as the 6 Nations Live Challenge app for the Royal Bank of Scotland and Samsung’s "#Breakfree" campaign.
Lean Mean Fighting Machine
Lean Mean Fighting Machine also had a year to be proud of. With eight new clients – including Google, Asos, Brylcreem and Flora pro.activ – revenue leapt by 27 per cent to £2.5 million. Among its creative highlights was "Flush of Fortune", a roulette-style digital game for the Unilever brand Domestos that gave users the chance to win up to £1,000 every day. Meanwhile, work for the airline Emirates, which consisted of site-build, mobile, digital, outdoor and film, showed off the breadth of the agency’s offering. Recent winners: AKQA (2011); AKQA (2010); Glue (2009); AKQA (2008); Dare (2007)