School Reports 2016: Sunshine

Roald Dahl Literary Estate
Roald Dahl Literary Estate

When industry folk talk about the dearth of interesting start-ups (which is often), someone will usually ask: "Have you heard of Sunshine?"

Sunshine bursts with promise but it’s hard to get a grip on. Its mission statement about helping brands find influence through popular culture is almost boilerplate, but the way the agency has structured itself feels innovative – a network of divisions set up to run restaurants and nightclubs as well as clients’ more traditional branding requirements.

The co-founders, Kit Hawkins and Al MacCuish, make a convincing pair and have assembled a talented team around them. In 2015, Sunshine completed its (all-female) management line-up, hiring DigitasLBi’s Nadya Powell as the managing director and Grey London’s Hollie Newton as its first executive creative director.

The downside to Sunshine’s novel set-up is that it is tough to know how well the agency is doing. Its most high-profile campaign actually launched in January 2016, creating content explaining BBC Three’s move to online. But the shop does interesting work that flies below the radar, such as the brief from the Roald Dahl Literary Estate to create an umbrella brand for the author’s work.

Indeed, there are big names on Sunshine’s client roster but not many are agency-of-record relationships (Warehouse is one of the few). This is frequently cited as the model of the future as clients reject retainers, but it must make it hard to chart an agency’s future.

Still, Sunshine shows healthy growth for a four-year-old. At times, the shop feels a bit like a grand experiment, but it’s easy to get sucked into the belief that Sunshine is on to something special.

How the agency rates itself: 7

"2015 was a turning point – from eager start-up to entrepreneurial creative business. We’ve attracted world-class talent, created a management team, won major brands such as Google, AEG Live and BBC Three. Creative highlights include the global rebrand for Roald Dahl, extending the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction partnership to Whistles and Waterstones, and completely reframing Boden with a fashion audience. 2015 proved the power of popular culture."

Type of agency Creative
Company ownership Independent
Declared income £4.7m (2014)
Total accounts at year end 15
Accounts won 7 (biggest: Lebara Play)
Accounts lost 0
Number of staff 45 (+15%)
Key personnel Kit Hawkins, co-founder and chief executive
Al MacCuish, co-founder and chief creative officer
Nadya Powell, managing director
Hollie Newton, executive creative director
Jenny Howard, head of strategy

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.