School Reports 2015: Isobel

National Express
National Express

Score: 6  Last year: n/a

Apart from turning ten years old, which Isobel celebrated with jelly, ice-cream and hot dogs at its new offices, the agency had other reasons to be cheerful in 2014.

For one thing, there was the appointment by Danepak to handle its account ahead of a planned relaunch. Having beaten the incumbent, Bray Leino, to the business, Isobel will promote the bacon brand – said by its owner, Tulip, to have "enormous potential for revitalisation" – across all channels.

For another, there was National Express, the coach operator, which was sufficiently impressed by a project handled by the agency in 2013 to switch its £7 million ad account out of McCann Birmingham.

Isobel has already given National Express some sizzle, recruiting David Soul for a wonderfully funny spot featuring the former Starsky & Hutch star driving a coach while singing his hit Silver Lady. The song even enjoyed a bit of chart success again – 37 years after it was released.

The agency seems to have a knack of growing client relationships. Like National Express, the real-estate company Hammerson extended existing links by handing Isobel a £2 million assignment to promote four of its shopping centres. Will last summer’s appointment by The Collective yoghurt-maker to handle a brand campaign prove equally productive?

With some household names now adorning its client list, Isobel needs to keep punching above its weight to attract more.

How the agency scores itself: 8

How the agency rates itself: We really came alive in 2014. Moved to a new home, filled that home with new talent from around the globe, won six of six new-business pitches (one allowing us free bacon for life), launched the first-ever global campaign for Bordeaux wines, watched as David Soul went bonkers for National Express, made people cry at Isobelly Laughs, dressed as Hare Krishnas for a day, and celebrated our tenth birthday. Loud and proud.

Type of agency Advertising
Company ownership Independent
Nielsen billings 2014 £8m
Nielsen billings 2013 £24m
Declared income £4m
Total accounts at year end 10
Accounts won 6 (biggest: Danepak)
Accounts lost 0
Number of staff 30 (+25%)
Key personnel Paul Holding managing partner
Steve Hastings planning partner
Rob Fletcher creative partner
David Alexander creative partner
Sue Laing finance director

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.