School Reports 2011: Initiative

Initiative's School Report for 2009 felt a little like a measuring-up exercise at an undertaker. There were those who feared the worst for the agency during 2010. And, indeed, the official scorecard doesn't look pretty.

Recent Initiative work: Match.com
Recent Initiative work: Match.com

Score: 4

Agency fact file: Initiative
Type of agency Performance-led communications
Company ownership Interpublic Group (Mediabrands)
Key personnel Alex Altman chief executive
  Tony Regan head of planning and insight
  Chris Wright head of broadcast
  Jane Wolfson head of non-broadcast
The Nielsen Company billings 2010 £167m
The Nielsen Company billings 2009 £147m
Declared income n/s
Total accounts at year end 52
Accounts won 12 (biggest: Ancestry.co.uk)
Accounts lost 1 (The Mushroom Council)
Number of staff 85 (+1%)

The agency points out, quite rightly, that it won a bit of business across the year - and didn't lose much. Highlights included Ancestry.co.uk, Victim Support and Greener Journeys. No win is ever a bad win, especially in the depths of a downturn. But for an agency that, not so long ago, was one of the biggest hitters in the UK market, this is hardly the stuff of legend. It remains an agency with few big-spending clients.

Happily, though, the doom and gloom has been lightened by one small glimmer of hope. Back in September, Alex Altman was hired to replace Gary Birtles (who moved upstairs into an EMEA role) as chief executive. He began work in earnest at the start of 2011.

As the man who led M4C to victory in the COI pitch (the largest ever in UK media history), Altman is one of the sector's rising stars. But he has taken on a daunting challenge.

He will be judged, ultimately, by his ability to make Initiative a serious proposition on some meaningful pitchlists; and he will have some serious work ahead in raising its digital game. Last year, digital accounted for less than 10 per cent of spend.

However, his first task, some say, will be defensive. Ensuring Tesco's continuing loyalty will be no small achievement. If he achieves that, the question still remains to be answered: where is Initiative really going?

Score last year: 4

How Initiative rates itself: 7

"Following a stable 2009, Initiative spent 2010 focusing on bringing in new business and extending our relationship with existing clients. We won 12 new accounts including Ancestry.co.uk and Titanbet and, unlike many agencies, remained unaffected by client repitches. Initiative also successfully evolved its relationship with current clients including Tesco and Match.com. 2010 saw Initiative tackle new areas of the Tesco media business, taking on the mobile marketing for Tesco.com and responsibilities for Tesco Directories."

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