School Reports 2017: Dare

Mellon Educate
Mellon Educate

Score: 4
Last year: 3

How the agency rates itself: 5

Dare is now a different animal to the beast that romped away with Campaign’s Agency of the Decade accolade in 2009. It lost managing director Toby Horry to Tesco in 2015, chief executive Leigh Thomas moved to Facebook last year and creative chief Brian Cooper now spends much of his time as chief creative officer of the whole Oliver Group, which acquired the agency 18 months ago.

The day-to-day running of Dare is now carried out by managing director Richard Neish, who will be looking to deliver a much needed period of stability as the metamorphosis into "Team Oliver" continues. New recruits and the nature of the work the agency talks about loudest suggest Dare is doubling down on technology specialisms and strategy through behavioural science. The most senior hires last year were Michael Olaye and Bongani Ndlovu from Havas London as chief technology officer and technical director respectively.

Conversely, less noise is being made about the kind of innovative creative campaigns that used to be Dare’s bread and butter. However, this tradition continued in the form of fun content-led campaigns for Sega (Football Manager), Mellon Educate and Irn-Bru.

Meanwhile, ten new accounts and three losses (all projects that had ended, the agency says) are perhaps a better result than many would have predicted for Dare’s first year under Oliver. However, marking exactly where Oliver ends and Dare begins can be troublesome within a network where most staff work in-house for clients.

To answer this, Dare made a virtue of its Oliver-ness with the launch of Dare Inside, its standalone route to market, which offers clients in-house digital agencies that sit alongside client brand teams. One wonders, in reality, if this proposition represents one last salvo by Dare to retain its identity.

How the agency describes its year in a tweet

Stronger, faster, better. Great client partnerships developing insight, design & engineering together; new products & international growth.

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