School Reports 2015: Initiative


Score: 5  Last year: 5

After management changes in 2013, a new-look Initiative spent last year stabilising the business and developing its core proposition. The agency itself describes 2014 as being partly about "consolidation", so it will surprise many to hear headcount actually rose by 5 per cent.

Three new accounts were picked up in the form of Turkish Airlines, Griesson de Beukelaer and Max Mara, but three clients also exited (Victoria Secrets, Flight Centre and The agency also points to nurturing a strong culture and organic growth as helping to achieve "record highs for staff morale".

Early in the year, Initiative created a marketing sciences division by combining with researchers from its UM London sibling to fuel insights, analytics, planning tools and data specialists.

Content development and analytics now play a significant role in Initiative’s revenue stream – but uber-client Tesco continues to define the agency (for now, at least – it called a review earlier this year), responsible for more than 50 per cent of its total billings. No surprise, then, that most additional new business in 2014 came from extending services to the UK’s biggest supermarket, which is in the process of undergoing something of a transformation itself. New remits include work for Tesco Content and econometrics for Tesco Mobile and Tesco Bank.

Elsewhere, solid organic growth was carved out of a roster of 35 other clients, including Amazon, Continental, Patek Philippe and Travelodge.

In terms of key staff changes, Cody Hogarth was drafted in to develop the agency’s content offering as its head of entertainment.

How the agency scores itself: 6

How the agency rates itself: 2013 saw significant changes within Initiative. 2014 was about consolidation, stability, working as a team, hiring and retaining great talent, bedding in new business, winning awards and extending capabilities (both content development and analytics now play a significant role in our revenue stream). Oh, and supporting our biggest client through its turnaround year. We also managed to deliver double-digit organic growth, increased profitability and record highs for staff morale.

Type of agency Media
Company ownership Interpublic
Nielsen billings 2014 £168m
Nielsen billings 2013 £169m
Declared income n/s*
Total accounts at year end 36
Accounts won 3 (biggest: Turkish Airlines)
Accounts lost 3 (biggest:
Traditional media 81%
Digital media 19%
Number of staff 124 (+5%)
Key personnel Sally Weavers managing director
David Grainger head of strategy
Lee Ramsay head of innovation
Cody Hogarth head of entertainment
Jane Wolfson head of commercial strategy and activation

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.