This has been the year when established media companies fought back, according to Andrew Stephens and Ella Dolphin, co-chairs of the Media Week Awards 2019.
ITV, Britain’s biggest and oldest commercial broadcaster, now in its 64th year, won Sales Team of the Year, and Manning Gottlieb OMD, which turns 30 next year, was crowned Media Agency of the Year.
Stephens, Goodstuff Communications’ co-founder, said: "Agencies and owners are demonstrating a real fightback against the many and varied challenges laid at the media industry’s door over the past few years."
There were signs that the UK’s leading commercial media companies were becoming less London-centric as the reality of Brexit loomed. Almost all the six shortlisted sales teams – Channel 4, Digital Cinema Media, ITV, Mail Metro Media, The Guardian and Twitter – mentioned new or growing operations in Manchester during their live presentations to the judges. In the case of Channel 4, a trio from its Manchester team took part via a video link.
None of the shortlisted media owners or agencies used Brexit uncertainty as an excuse for their performance during the Media Week Awards judging period, which ran from July 2018 to June 2019.
Manning Gottlieb OMD, which beat Initiative, MediaCom, OMD UK, PHD and the7stars to Media Agency of the Year, has been an inadvertent beneficiary of Brexit after winning the UK government’s £150m media-buying account last year and picking up extra spend from Whitehall.
The judges were impressed by the strength of Manning Gottlieb OMD’s management team, how it has "on-boarded" the government’s complex account and innovated for existing clients such as John Lewis & Partners, for which the agency won gold for its Christmas 2018 campaign starring Sir Elton John.
Tim Pearson, who was chief executive of Manning Gottlieb OMD during the judging period and is now chief executive of parent company OMD Group UK, and Natalie Bell, managing director of Manning Gottlieb OMD, said: "We made this year about delivering on promises – promises we made to our people, our clients, ourselves and the industry. Being named Agency of the Year is a huge honour and 2019’s crowning achievement."
ITV won Sales Team of the Year as the judges praised the broadcaster for investing in deeper client partnerships, in-house creative planning capabilities and online technology – despite a tough TV market.
ITV featured heavily, as Goodstuff’s work for Dunelm on an advertiser-funded dating show, Inviting Home Lovers Back to Mine, won two golds and the Grand Prix, and MediaCom’s partnership with Missguided on Love Island won a gold, silver and bronze. Kelly Williams, managing director of commercial at ITV, said: "Since we last won in 2016, the pace of change in our industry has accelerated. In response, we restructured our entire team last year and increased our focus on creativity, working more closely with clients and building our addressable offering… That is why this award was so special."
The work for Dunelm scored highly as Goodstuff worked with ITV to shift perception about the homewares retailer, from functional to building an emotional connection in the minds of consumers.
The solution was the aforementioned Inviting Home Lovers Back to Mine, hosted by Rochelle Humes, which invited singletons to pick a partner based on rummaging around their homes. The ITV show reached more than four million viewers and Dunelm recorded a 13% brand uplift when it came to the "quality" of its products and a 10% rise in sales.
Sam Drake, partner at Goodstuff, credited Dunelm for being "a progressive client prepared to take a risk on a big ‘crazy idea’" and the "genuine collaboration" between the media agency (Goodstuff), media owner (ITV), production company (Shiver) and creative agency (MullenLowe) and the client.
David Pemsel, chief executive of Guardian Media Group, won Media Leader of the Year, in association with specialist executive search firm The Lighthouse Company, for his turnaround at the publisher.
The judges said Pemsel stood out after introducing voluntary reader contributions to support The Guardian’s free, ad-funded website and completing a three-year, financial drive to break even. It subsequently emerged that Pemsel is to leave GMG to become chief executive of the Premier League.
Wavemaker won Best Agency Partner for the second year in a row. The award, which is supported by Reach Solutions, is judged by media owners.
Manchester companies performed strongly. MediaCom’s North operation was behind a trio of awards for its work for Missguided, a Mancunian, fast-fashion brand, and Hannah Anderson, director of social and creative for Social Chain, a Manchester-based influencer company, won Rising Star in the media owner category. Total Media’s Mihir Haria-Shah was named Rising Star in the agency category.
Almost 1,000 people attended the awards dinner at Grosvenor House and TV comic Tom Allen hosted.
Stephens told the audience that the shortlisted companies proved "the old adage of ‘the bigger you are, the harder you fall’ could not be further from the truth". Instead some of the UK’s biggest media businesses are repositioning themselves by embracing technology, data and more flexible, creative ways of working – "more progress and less old-school process", as Stephens put it.
Dolphin, chief executive of Stylist Group, added she was struck by how many media companies are investing in "tackling issues and supporting causes that go wider and deeper than just our industry and are indeed societal" as they seek "to create a culture that all people can thrive in".
To see the full list of winners, visit mediaweekawards.co.uk