School Reports 2017: Carat


Score: 4
Last year: 8

How the agency rates itself: 7

When Asda moved its £90m account to Blue 449 in April last year, it was a big shock for Carat. Five months later, Carat lost the £55m British Gas business to MediaCom. The shop has had better years. But that’s not to say Carat hasn’t been working hard. So many big clients called a pitch in 2016 that it did well to keep hold of the £1.6bn global Diageo account and Kellogg European business. The agency also added Post Office and AA, among others, to its books.

For Adidas, Carat launched a pop-up space for women in London’s Victoria Park to promote the PureBoost X trainers. It used the power generated by visitors to illuminate a running route at night.

In addition, there was a change in management. Rick Hirst moved over from sister creative agency Mcgarrybowen to become chief executive. Many questioned how someone with no experience of the ins and outs of media could run such a mature shop.

Nevertheless, Tracy De Groose, Dentsu Aegis Network’s UK and Ireland chief executive, believes leading an agency is no longer about silos but about "solving client problems".

Whether Hirst can prove De Groose correct remains to be seen. He entered Carat at a tough time but is playing his part in improving it. And it is notable that Carat did not lose a single member of staff as a result of the two major account losses.

Carat’s investment in its staff is clearly paying off. The "make brave happen" strategy of rewarding and prioritising innovation has been exported to the US and Australia. In a recent survey, 83% of staff say they feel encouraged and supported to make brave decisions and introduce innovative ideas to their clients – up 7% compared with the previous year.

But there’s no denying that Hirst has his work cut out. After spending so much time trying to retain key accounts in 2016, perhaps this year he will be able to find opportunities to woo brands and media owners.

How the agency describes its year in a tweet

The start of a renaissance. Invigorated leadership, brave culture, great work. Ambitiously pursuing growth (clients’ & ours). Let’s go ‘17!

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