School Reports 2016: J Walter Thompson London


The management at J Walter Thompson seems obsessed with appearing antiquated. But if you ran one of the world's oldest agencies, you would probably fret too.

One of JWT London’s strides into the future in 2015 was to create a layer of management partners. The agency appointed three women and a man in a bid to balance the all-male executive team. There is still more work to be done in the agency, but at least JWT isn’t sitting around waiting for diversity to just happen.

At a global level, the agency launched JWT Intelligence, a research and analytics operation, and Mirum, a digital outfit. But the main shop showed it was no slouch at embracing technology with its "feel every smile" app for Listerine.

Proving that it was keen not to lose touch with traditional skills, JWT London hired Dave Dye – one of the most respected art directors in the industry – as its head of art.

There was plenty of quality traditional work to come out of the agency, not least a tactical ad for Kit Kat that ribbed James Bond’s philandering and a stunningly shot TV spot for Canon that introduced the obscure sport of skijoring.

Royal Caribbean was the agency’s only major loss in 2015. Philadelphia was the biggest win, though Ribena was more coveted. But the agency will feel aggrieved at not landing Morrisons and letting an Army brief slip to Karmarama.

Still, these were minor blips and JWT’s determination not to fall behind the upstarts serves it well. As Steve Jobs used to attest, paranoia can be a productive state of mind.

How the agency rates itself: 8

"This year was all about diversity. We created a river in the sky for HSBC, went skijoring with Canon and got into bed with James Bond for Kit Kat. We broke our own record by having the most retweeted branded ad of all time and our Listerine app was the top digital innovation in the Campaign Annual. Shell Favela football pitch won 28 awards, making us the most-awarded experiential agency in the UK."

J Walter Thompson London
Type of agency Integrated creative
Company ownership WPP
Nielsen billings 2015 £137m
Nielsen billings 2014 £122m
Declared income £53.9m
Total accounts at year end 43
Accounts won 13 (biggest: Philadelphia)
Accounts lost 2 (biggest: Royal Caribbean)
Number of staff 434 (nominal change)
Women in senior management 44%
BAME staff in senior management 11%
Key personnel Joseph Petyan, executive partner
James Whitehead, executive partner
Russell Ramsey, executive partner and executive creative director
Neil Godber, head of planning
Dani Bassil, integrated operations director and management partner

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.