School Reports 2017: Zenith


Score: 7 
Last year: 6

How the agency rates itself: 7

The challenge of retaining business when accounts come up for review should not be underestimated and Zenith, under the leadership of Mark Howley, can reflect on a decent record in his first full year in charge. Aviva and Mars, two of Zenith’s biggest UK clients, both kept their accounts with the agency after competitive, hard-fought reviews that were arguably more important than any new business that was up for grabs. Entertainment One was another significant retention, plus Howley’s team won eight pieces of business, including H&M and Nomad Foods.

The big disappointment was Toyota, which moved without a full pitch as part of a European realignment involving both creative and media – so there were forces beyond Zenith UK’s control in this case. The departure comes into effect this year. There were three other notable losses in 2016: Dunelm, Swarovski and Qantas.

Zenith used to be part of a bigger operating company, ZenithOptimedia, which was broken up midway through last year as part of a wider reorganisation by Publicis Media. In the UK, the entire ZenithOptimedia agency rebranded as Zenith, while the old Walker Media joined the rest of the former Optimedia network to form Blue 449. ZenithOptimedia’s former boss Steve King is now global chief executive of Publicis Media and keeps an office in Zenith’s London home.

The agency has won a reputation as an expert in search, winning Google as a client last year, and its SEO business enjoyed 25% growth. Zenith claimed it was even able to override Google’s algorithm for Aviva’s attribution modelling, winning praise from the search giant for "working with DoubleClick in a way that has never been explored before".

There were accolades too. Zenith’s "Safer roads" for Aviva won at the Media Week Awards and at Cannes Lions, while work for Coors Light was recognised at the IPA Effectiveness Awards.

How the agency describes its year in a tweet

Extensions and retentions, leading in machine learning capabilities and tech partnerships and lifting the lid on programmatic.

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