School Reports 2014: MBA


Score: 6  Last year: 5

MBA’s seven additions to its client list last year – O2 and Avios (formerly Air Miles) among them – are testament to an agency that has never been a headline-grabber but understands the benefits of a measured approach to what it does.

It clearly enjoys the benefits of a stable management team experienced in working across a wide range of media. And, in Stephen Maher, its chief executive – a member of the IPA Council who was last year named the chairman of the Marketing Society – MBA has an ideal ambassador. Last year will certainly go down as one of significant expansion for the agency. In June, it bolstered its offer of app, e-commerce and tech development with the acquisition of Cubeworks, a Brighton-based web and mobile development business. It has been rebranded as MBA Brighton.

At the same time, MBA established its first overseas outpost by setting up in Miami. The office’s initial raison d’être is to help service its Embraer client. The Brazil-based jet-maker has a strong US presence. However, there’s also hope that the office will prove a door-opener to new US and Latin American clients. Indeed, it was Embraer that inspired what was probably MBA’s most notable piece of creative work of the year – a social media campaign shot in Hollywood-blockbuster style and starring Jackie Chan.

Besides O2, which hired the agency to handle its business-to-business digital account, and Avios, for which it takes on direct marketing and digital assignments, MBA landed clients from across a broad area. Among them were Guide Dogs, the charity for blind and partially sighted people, and Sage by Heston Blumenthal, a new range of appliances from the chef. However, it was a faller in the race for Scottish Power, which went to Fallon after a protracted pitch.

No matter. On last year’s evidence, the agency’s steady-as-she-goes philosophy seems to work well enough.

How MBA rates itself: 8

MBA's year in a Tweet: New: clientsx7;tech shop acquisition; Miami office; LOVEFiLM award; exciting J Chan social camp. Same: owner mgmt team; Brand Action approach

Type of agency Digital/direct
Company ownership Independent
Key personnel Stephen Maher chief executive
Graham Kerr chairman and executive creative director
James Devon planning partner
James Middlehurst managing partner
Paul Munce managing partner
Nielsen billings 2013 £12m
Nielsen billings 2012 £17m
Declared income £5m (estimate)
Total accounts at year end 22
Accounts won 7 (biggest: O2)
Accounts lost 0
Number of staff 55 (+28%)

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.