School Reports 2013: Karmarama


Score: 8  Last year: 7

Karmarama had a very eventful 2012 – winning new clients, making a new acquisition, expanding and moving into sprawling new offices.

Karma Communications, the group that owns Karmarama, acquired The Crayon Group in January on the back of the tranche of funding it had previously received from a private equity group. The expanded group, which now includes digital marketing and data services, set about integrating within the confines of a souped-up new space in Farringdon.

Notwithstanding this massive internal shift, the executive chairman, Nicola Mendelsohn, ably took on the role of IPA president, which undoubtedly boosted the shop’s profile.

The agency also remained on the new-business treadmill and managed to bag several sought-after accounts. The biggest of these was the £40 million B&Q business, which Karmarama won after a head-to-head pitch against WCRS. The agency also landed the advertising accounts for the Tesco-owned Blinkbox, Kerrygold, Porsche UK and Time Out after a pitch. In addition, it picked up Tullamore Dew’s digital advertising and social media business.

There were also many new joiners, including Mother’s Mark Harrison, as its managing director of retail, Lawrence Weber from The Brooklyn Brothers as the head of digital integration and David Pandit from Bartle Bogle Hegarty as the director of data and analytics.

And the work kept coming – much of it pretty surreal. There were disembodied heads in bags of coffee beans singing a Kiss song for Costa, a miniature cowboy on a normal-sized horse for Pilgrims Choice and an upper-class pantomime bull for Colman’s. The work was often polarising and lacked the sharp, comic writing required to back up its ambitions, but nonetheless achieved an element of standout.

However, it wasn’t all plain sailing for the agency, and Karmarama had to deal with its very own social media storm after a road-safety website created by a member of staff angered the cycling community. Thankfully, the squall eventually passed and Karmarama greets 2013 a wiser, bigger and busier agency.

Type of agency Progressive
Company ownership Independent
Key personnel Nicola Mendelsohn executive chairman
Ben Bilboul chief executive
Dave Buonaguidi chief creative officer
Sid McGrath chief strategy officer
Mark Runacus senior planning partner
Nielsen billings 2012 £74m
Nielsen billings 2011 £80m
Declared income n/s
Total accounts at year end 27
Accounts won 8 (biggest: B&Q)
Accounts lost 0
Number of staff 170 (+125%)

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 Karamarama rates itself: 7

"A game-changing year. The coupling with Crayon created a near-200 person agency in a gob-smacking new space. Investment in quality talent combined the best in creativity, digital, data and strategy. The KID youth consultancy launched, we became adland’s Best Company to work for, won shed loads of new business, produced some cracking work, and together with our clients and beautiful people continued growing Karmarama into the stuff of dreams. Good keeps working."