School Reports 2011: Karmarama

2010 was a turning point for Karmarama. The small agency, though never afraid to challenge bigger rivals, had previously remained somewhat on the fringes.

Recent Karmarama work: Costa
Recent Karmarama work: Costa

Score: 7

Agency fact file: Karmarama
Type of agency Advertising
Company ownership Independent
Key personnel Ben Bilboul partner
  Dave Buonaguidi partner
  Nicola Mendelsohn partner
  Sid McGrath partner
The Nielsen Company billings 2010 £67m
The Nielsen Company billings 2009 £44m
Declared income £11.5m
Total accounts at year end 18
Accounts won 6 (biggest: BT Plusnet)
Accounts lost 1 (Paddy Power)
Number of staff 62 (+11%)

But last year saw the shop step up a gear. Ably led by its stalwart management team, including the high-profile Nicola Mendelsohn, Karmarama won much-sought-after new business and made some strides creatively. It also diversified into PR in a joint venture with Chris McCafferty, a director at Shine Communications.

Fallon's award-winning creative team Sam Walker and Joe De Souza joined to work alongside the creative director, Dave Buonaguidi. The pair, who were given an equity stake, didn't take long to make their mark on the agency's creative output. Their work for the likes of Costa, Early Learning Centre and the Crime and Investigation Network showed an agency with improving creative firepower.

Another coup for Karmarama was winning the £20 million account for the BT-owned Plusnet, for which it pitched against MCBD, Swarm (Y&R's conflict shop) and McCann Manchester. The agency also picked up a project for La Senza and the advertising for the International Herald Tribune. Although Karmarama lost its Paddy Power account, the shop still put on an impressive new-business run, making it on to the shortlist in the BBC's advertising review. By March 2011, it had made it on to the BBC roster.

Meanwhile, Mendelsohn is taking over as the IPA president this year, replacing Rory Sutherland. This will, in no small way, help Karmarama's burgeoning profile, though the associated duties could well prove a distraction at such an important time in the agency's development. Still, though not fully out of the shade yet, Karmarama is on the right course.

Score last year: 6

How Karmarama rates itself: 7

"2010 was a great year, winning lots of new business and producing our best work to date. Income has grown 50 per cent and we continue to go from strength to strength, hiring quality senior talent in all aspects of the business, launching a PR venture and expanding our content division. None of this could have happened without our brilliant clients and our hard-working people. Thank you all so very much. Good really does work."

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