School Reports 2013: Iris


Score: 8  Last year: 7

For Iris, 2012 was a tale of two halves. There was the half it would rather forget and the other half it wanted to shout about from the rooftops.

Overall, and despite its setbacks, the year turned out nicely for the agency, which proved its diverse integrated capabilities could stand out in the market. It was also heavily involved in work around the London Olympics, having created the official mascots, and developed large campaigns for the likes of Adidas.

Pitching was clearly on top of the agency’s "to-do" list and this busy approach paid off after it bagged a whopping 24 new accounts, including Domino’s Pizza, Monarch and PZ Cussons.

The most prestigious win came at the end of 2012 when Iris captured Mini’s integrated account from the incumbents ,WCRS and Lida, after a hard-fought pitch process. This went some way to making up for the losses the agency experienced earlier in the year. They included one of its long-standing clients, Orange, which reviewed its needs after the creation of the Everything Everywhere umbrella. It also lost the advertising account for Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles when the business was consolidated into the DDB network.

In August, Iris found itself at the centre of a social media storm after publishing an internal manual for staff titled "Iris on Benefits", which came under attack for displaying supposedly prejudiced and elitist views towards some sections of society. On the plus side, at least it generated conversation, albeit not of the right kind, around the agency’s brand.

In November, the London joint chief executive Tom Poynter left the agency after three years. Yet, with the Iris founder Ian Millner maintaining a firm hand at the helm, the agency moved the long-serving Dan Saxby into the joint London chief executive role alongside Steve Bell in a bid to ensure some continuity.

With new-business performance balanced towards the positive despite some bad losses, and with clients such as Mini’s owner BMW convinced by Iris’ integrated credentials, the agency has built enough momentum to keep it rolling during 2013.

Type of agency Integrated creative
Company ownership Independent, with a strategic relationship with Meredith
Key personnel Ian Millner founder, joint global CEO
Steve Bell joint chief executive, London
Dan Saxby joint chief executive, London
Sam Noble global planning director
Shaun McIlrath executive creative director
Nielsen billings 2012 £24m
Nielsen billings 2011 £20m
Declared income £50.3m
Total accounts at year end 68
Accounts won 24 (biggest: Mini)
Accounts lost 3 (biggest: Orange)
Number of staff 400 (no change)

Score key: 9 Outstanding 8 Excellent 7 Good 6 Satisfactory 5 Adequate 4 Below average 3 Poor 2 A year to forget 1 Survival in question

How Iris rates itself: 9

"We have remained true to who we are, and are increasingly becoming the alternative to the traditional global networks. The quiet achiever south of the river, doing stuff that doesn’t always makes sense to other agencies, but does to clients. We’ve just recorded yet another positive year in terms of growth….2012 was our biggest ever, and we are well set for 2013 to be better still."