New Business Development Team/Person of the Year 2020: Michael Butler

He rose to the challenges of 2020 securing new clients and expanding the agency into new sectors.

New Business Development Team/Person of the Year 2020: Michael Butler

Business development director, Essence

Michael Butler, who has led Essence’s business development team in EMEA since 2018, rose to the many challenges presented by 2020. His input was key in sealing some of the biggest pitches of the year. New clients included Sainsbury’s, ITV, Zoopla and Vistaprint, contributing to healthy year-on-year incremental growth. The agency also expanded into sectors such as beauty, FMCG and property. All of Essence’s new clients came from pitches held either in part, or entirely, remotely. 

Butler was instrumental in reinterpreting Essence’s pitch process online. He created a system to bring pitch chemistry and theatre into the remote age, using online quizzes and cross-agency team games to foster relationships. 

As part of the winning pitch for Sainsbury’s Argos, the team used the system to create a Rubik’s Cube as part of an Escape Room game. After identifying Argos and Sainsbury’s customer challenges and devising a six-point framework for their customer journeys, Essence created six puzzles to bring them to life.

He also introduced a virtual whiteboard system with Post-it notes to encourage people to share ideas remotely. As a result of these strong relationships, Essence retained 100% of its clients in 2020. 

Other achievements across 2020 included developing a programme to identify and train future new-business talent within the agency, with 27 employees undergoing training. Butler has also focused on knowledge sharing sessions with intermediaries and relevant agency specialists. This has led to the development of two large incremental pitch opportunities from new intermediary partners.



In 2020, Unlimited reframed its new business operations, rebuilding infrastructure to support an ambitious strategy that saw the agency move away from a silo process. The resulting new business team of 10 has capabilities spanning a number of disciplines, from design and PR to sales and marketing, which has resulted in a significant uplift in wins.