School Reports 2011: SapientNitro

SapientNitro started off the year with a new team and lots of promise.

Recent SapientNitro work:  Auto Trader
Recent SapientNitro work: Auto Trader

Score: 5

Agency fact file: SapientNitro
Type of agency Digitally centred, traditionally capable
Company ownership Independent
Key personnel Nigel Vaz VP managing director, business
  Malcolm Poynton chief creative officer
  Kim Douglas VP managing director, strategy
Declared income £69.4m (2009)
Total accounts at year end 29
Accounts won 13 (biggest: Coca-Cola Olympics 2012)
Accounts lost 4 (biggest: Twix)
Number of staff 489 (+52%)

Chris Clarke, the global chief, who has admitted he hadn't given enough love or care to the agency's London offering in the past, aimed to prove times had changed by moving from New York to London to lead the shop, though he has since stepped back from the day-to-day management.

Last year, Clarke drafted in a creative heavyweight, recruiting Malcom Poynton, the former executive creative director at Ogilvy, as chief creative officer across Europe. Kim Douglas, the ex-strategy officer at Mindshare, was also hired as managing director. Poynton, with his creative credentials and Douglas, with his planning clout, seemed like astute hires and the agency promised to offer a fusion of creative and technological expertise. We are still waiting to see evidence of this in the UK.

The agency had a boost mid-year when its client Coca-Cola appointed it to handle a global and UK advertising brief surrounding its sponsorship of the 2012 London Olympics, alongside Mother. But there was little else to crow about.

Creative output from SapientNitro's London office included an impressive image recognition iPhone app for AutoTrader, and a novel smile-activated vending machine for Wall's. However, the agency resigned its Octopus Travel and Travelodge business and lost its Twix and AstraZeneca accounts.

Though efforts are clearly being made to revitalise SapientNitro, turning the agency into a prominent force in the UK is still eluding its senior team.

Score last year: 3

How SapientNitro rates itself: 7

"2010 marked one of the best years in our 11-year history. We completed the integration of Nitro (forming SapientNitro), moved to one office and one P&L. By marrying Sapient's digital with Nitro's offline, we've created a uniquely digitally centred, traditionally capable agency. Under Malcolm Poynton, we won 28 creative awards, including Cannes Lions for Unilever and Auto Trader and continue to be a Leader in Forrester's Web Design Report and No. 1 in the NMA's Top 100."

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