School Reports 2013: SapientNitro


Score: 7  Last year: 6

Discussing SapientNitro alongside agencies such as Saatchi & Saatchi and TBWA\London seems akin to Top Gear reviewing the latest Boeing airliner alongside a Volkswagen Golf. The phrase "category error" springs to mind.

Yes, the agency has a renowned creative director, strong account management and executes advertising campaigns across media. Yet much of its impressive income stream is derived from high-end digital consultancy and "heavy-lifting" infrastructure build work.

Assessing its performance can, therefore, be tricky as its work for a client does not always result in a shiny new commercial. Having said that, its Ladbrokes activity, on the back of a 2011 account win, worked through a range of channels, and the Chris Kamara-fronted TV spots raised a smile.

In terms of new business, the agency was busy – landing a string of accounts, the largest of which was the global digital and social media business for the automotive brand McLaren. Other notable wins included digital creative for Barclays Wealth, digital strategy for TUI and, continuing the motors theme, digital communications for Harley-Davidson.

On the debit side, SapientNitro resigned the Lebara mobile account. It also faced a battle to hold on to its BSkyB business, a big client of DAD, which SapientNitro acquired in 2011.

A roster review saw it keep its place among Sky’s agencies, but it faces competition from three newly appointed agencies.

And there were some tantalising missed opportunities – the agency gained a place on the £110 million Tesco pitch, only to lose out to Wieden & Kennedy, and also failed to land the British Airways digital business after pitching.

Notable departures from SapientNitro included the managing director, Kim Douglas, who left to run its Singapore office and the client services director, Clive Tanqueray, who returned to Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO. However, the agency appointed the former Glue Isobar director Jo Hagger as its vice-president of marketing, as it looks to boost its profile.

All in all, 2013 was a successful year for SapientNitro, which has developed a structure and positioning fit for the future.

Type of agency Creative/digital
Company ownership Independent
Key personnel Nigel Vaz senior vice-president and managing director
Malcolm Poynton chief creative officer
Jo Hagger vice-president, marketing
Nielsen billings 2012 £10m
Nielsen billings 2011 £16m
Declared income £117m (2011)
Total accounts at year end 43
Accounts won 10 (biggest: McLaren)
Accounts lost 1 (Lebara)
Number of staff 913 (+12%)

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 SapientNitro rates itself: 8

"After unprecedented growth in 2011, we continued the pace through 2012 – winning more than 15 international creative awards, securing 10 new accounts and recruiting 98 new Idea Engineers – to remain the UK’s largest independent agency. We’re really excited about the next 365 days of innovation."