School Reports 2015: TBWA\London


Score: 6  Last year: 5

During its first full year as the incumbent on Lidl’s £20 million UK account, TBWA\London took it on to TV with a commercial featuring people at an East London market stall gobsmacked to find that what they are sampling are Lidl products.

It makes you wonder if the agency itself would benefit from a bit of "blind tasting", given the need to convince would-be clients of its abilities after its recent history of inconsistent management and trying to solve problems by chucking money at them. Indeed, a client willing to don a blindfold might find she quite liked TBWA’s samplings.

The problem for the agency is in making the break from its previous troubles and ensuring that perception starts to catch up with reality.

To be fair, TBWA is giving it a good shot. As Campaign commented when the Lidl work appeared: "It may not be novel, but the spot is nicely done and it feels like a solid strategy." Might it also be a portent of a much-needed creative revival?

It’s too early to say, but the agency did return from Cannes with two gold Lions in Design and Outdoor, and three silvers and one bronze, suggesting it might be getting its mojo back.

But one break with the past was a sad one – Heineken shifted TBWA’s long-standing John Smith’s business into Adam & Eve/DDB. There were compensations with the arrival of Harrods, Sotheby’s and Airbnb, the internet-based room-rental site.

Meanwhile (and it may be tempting fate), the managerial line-up looks more solid since the arrival of Richard Stainer from Bartle Bogle Hegarty as the chief executive and Amelia Torode, VCCP’s former top planner, as its chief strategy officer. One criticism of TBWA was that it never really knew what it stood for, so has it begun to find out?

How the agency scores itself: 6

How the agency rates itself: We won eight Lions at Cannes. We won four gongs at the Campaign Big Awards. We won the Creative Circle Gold of Golds for Jumpstore. We won Airbnb. We won Sotheby’s. We won Harrods (man, are we getting posh or what?). We won Lidl the title of the fastest-growing UK supermarket. We won the "who-gets-to-sign-the-wonderful-Amelia Torode?" contest.

Type of agency Advertising
Company ownership Omnicom
Nielsen billings 2014 £147m
Nielsen billings 2013 £109m
Declared income n/s
Total accounts at year end 18
Accounts won 3 (biggest: n/s)
Accounts lost 1 (Four Seasons)
Number of staff 296 (+35%)
Key personnel Peter Souter chairman and chief creative officer
Richard Stainer chief executive
Amelia Torode chief strategy officer
Gary Smith group financial controller
Jeremy Carr executive creative 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.