School Reports 2014: AIS London

Harrison's Fund
Harrison's Fund

Score: 6  Last year: 4

In a year that saw AIS London make the final break with its founding fathers, the agency showed signs of regaining its equilibrium after what had been a challenging period.

The evolution was marked by Steve Stretton’s decision to step down from day-to-day involvement with the shop he co-founded with Stuart Archibald and Jon Ingall 14 years ago to become the non-executive chairman. He subsequently joined Proximity as the interim executive creative director.

At the same time, AIS enhanced its creative firepower by hiring Rapier’s Kevin Bratley as a creative director to focus on Skoda – one of its biggest clients. His arrival coincided with that of the creative team Matt Eastwood and Dan Madden, who had previously worked at VCCP and Peak15.

Their appointment certainly seemed to have a restorative effect as the agency bounced back from the blow of losing EDF Energy in 2012 by landing some significant wins, most notably the Waitrose CRM account, which moved out of Kitcatt Nohr Digitas after seven years.

Although 19 employees departed AIS in 2013, there were also 22 newcomers, leaving the agency with a 4 per cent increase in overall staff numbers.

The addition of Club Med to AIS’s client portfolio (it was handed the high-end holiday provider’s integrated UK CRM business) is another precursor of sunnier times.

Meanwhile, AIS proved it could still deliver standout creative. Its provocative work for Harrison’s Fund, which told the story of a six-year-old boy with the degenerative condition Duchenne muscular dystrophy, took gold in the Press category at the Campaign Big Awards.

With the arrival of new clients such as Waitrose and National Express – and the influx of some new blood – AIS has shown a lot of resilience in overcoming previous setbacks. The market remains tough, but AIS’s current performance suggests it is up for a fight.

How AIS London rates itself: 7

AIS London's year in a Tweet: 6 new clients. 17 more awards on the shelf. 22 new members in the team. And a new office to top it all off.

AIS London
Type of agency Digital and direct marketing
Company ownership Havas Media Group
Key personnel Geoff Gower managing partner, creative
Sarah Stratford managing partner, strategy
Liz Barnsdale managing director
Declared income £6.4m (unaudited)
Total accounts at year end 13
Accounts won 6 (biggest: Waitrose)
Accounts lost 1 (Pure)
Number of staff 77 (+4%)

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

Footnote: *indicates where agencies claim the corporate governance constraints of the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation.