School Reports 2014: Inferno


Score: 7  Last year: 7

No sooner had Inferno made its Campaign School Reports debut in 2013 after a year of rapid expansion than it had the rug pulled from under its feet. Nokia removed a chunk of its ad business at the end of 2012 and, as a result, Inferno’s top line halved from £21.5 million to £11.5 million.

Still, the agency had savings to eat into to buffer the drop and, if there is one thing that Inferno has proved over the past two years, it is that it knows how to win a pitch. The agency finished 2012 with the highest conversion rate of any shop in London at 83.3 per cent, according to AAR, and in 2013 it set about making sure that its client list was more diverse.

Inferno won Fairtrade International’s global ad account in January after a competitive pitch and was named the lead creative and strategic agency for Grant’s whisky. In addition to wins for Skype and Western Union, the agency also landed a spot on the Crown Commercial Service roster, and soon turned that advantage into new business, picking up work for the Money Advice Service – which was the first CCS pitch – and the National College for Teaching & Leadership.

One of Inferno’s biggest successes was burying in deeper with Sky and producing its "the Sky difference" campaign. Previously, the agency only handled the broadcaster’s business-to-business work.

But while its Sky activity was more high-profile, Inferno’s campaigns for the NSPCC provided the creative highlights. Top of the pile was "the underwear rule", which found a way to discuss child abuse without resorting to cliché.

We’d like to see a bit more work like that from Inferno, which doesn’t produce enough creative highlights in a typical year. It will be no mean feat to do that while it gets settled with DraftFCB Worldwide, which bought the agency in December 2013.

How Inferno rates itself: 8

Inferno's year in a Tweet: We love 2013, a year we were regulars in Campaign’s New-Biz Ranks; saw increased global billings; had strong creative and merged with Draftfcb

Type of agency Advertising
Company ownership Independent (bought by DraftFCB Worldwide in December 2013)
Key personnel Frazer Gibney chairman, chief executive
Tim Doust founding partner
Drew Saunders founding partner
Al Young chief creative officer
Robin Jaffray chief strategy officer
Nielsen billings 2013 £15m
Nielsen billings 2012 £19m
Declared income £8.4m
Total accounts at year end 20
Accounts won 7 (biggest: Sky)
Accounts lost 3 (biggest: Flava-It – resigned)
Number of staff 107 (-14%)

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.