School Reports 2014: Arena


Score: 4  Last year: 5

Last year was a challenging one for Arena. The agency needed stability after a series of senior exits following management earn-outs in 2011.

It was apparent from the outset that change was in the air, with Arena dropping the word "Media" from its name. But if the loss of the long-term client Thomas Cook in March suggested a new direction was needed, the departure in June of the chief executive and last remaining founder, Steve Booth, confirmed the end of an era.

The elevation of Pedro Avery into the hotseat meant a steady, experienced hand remained on the tiller – but not everyone was convinced he represented the change Arena so badly needed.

For Arena’s progressives, the savvy Henry Daglish was widely celebrated. His promotion to managing director in July went some way to recognising his contribution. Avery is on a steep learning curve for an increasingly digitally focused Havas.

But Arena’s position in Havas Media Group is still unclear. In January, as well as rebranding MPG Media Contacts to Havas Media, the group created a "middle office" of shared services, such as buying, analytics and social. Moreover, since October, Arena has nestled in the same St Martin’s Lane office as Havas Media.

Yet Havas seemed to underline its commitment to Arena when it directed much of LG’s £260 million global media business into the network at the start of the summer. New-business wins in Nanoblur and All Leisure Group were accompanied by ongoing strong media work for Domino’s Pizza, Eurostar and Betfair.

Arena has not answered all of its critics over the past 12 months, but there is a new energy and sense of purpose radiating from its staff. This is the year to build on that momentum.

How Arena rates itself: 7

Arena's year in a Tweet: 2013 our best year yet for income & pitch conversion. Duly rewarded talent and cemented our role as a powerful asset within Havas Group

Type of agency Full-service media planning/buying
Company ownership Havas
Key personnel Pedro Avery chief executive
Henry Daglish managing director
Justin Gibbons creative director
Gary Greasby finance director
Bobby Hui chief strategy officer
Nielsen billings 2013 £69m
Nielsen billings 2012 £81m
Declared income n/s*
Total accounts at year end 48
Accounts won 4 (biggest: American Express)
Accounts lost 2 (biggest: Thomas Cook)
Traditional 54%
Digital 36%
Other 10%
Number of staff 161 (+9%)

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.