School Reports 2021: the highest-scoring WPP agencies

Campaign reveals the WPP agencies with the highest marks in the School Reports.

WPP (clockwise from top left): Essence, MediaCom, Wunderman Thompson, The & Partnership
WPP (clockwise from top left): Essence, MediaCom, Wunderman Thompson, The & Partnership

Producing creative work, adapting to remote working, keeping businesses afloat – all no mean feats during a global pandemic and economic downturn.

Mark Read, chief executive of WPP, told Campaign in March that he was upbeat about the holding company’s recovery from Covid-19, as revenue decline improved in Q4 and the year ended up being better than initially feared at the start of the virus crisis.

On an annual basis, WPP was the third-best performer of the big six agency groups during the coronavirus downturn, although some of its rivals use different methodology to calculate revenues.

These are the WPP shops that achieved the highest scores in Campaign’s School Reports.

Essence

Mark: 8

Shirking the general downward trend, Essence actually increased its overall billings in 2020. Being one of the top digital specialist media agencies in a year when the locked-in UK population flocked to online shops and the internet to assuage their boredom gave it a huge boost.

It was certainly to Essence's benefit that 30% of its business is not linked to media billings but comes instead from consulting, experience, technology and analytics. It also won Campaign's Tech Agency of the Year in 2020.

MediaCom UK

Mark: 8

It helps to be a supertanker when navigating choppy waters and the UK's biggest media agency fared well, despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

Chief executive Kate Rowlinson began her first full year at the helm by challenging the agency to become "whole-brained" (embracing science and art) in its approach, while being "famous for digital".

Wunderman Thompson

Mark: 8

Not only did Wunderman Thompson win Campaign’s Customer Engagement Agency of the Year for the second year running, it also treated its clients and employees well as the coronavirus hit. It produced some great creative work across the year, no mean feat in such a difficult 12 months and with staff working remotely.

M/SIX

Mark: 7

In a year of relentless disruption, winning nine pitches worth £40m in UK billings, including brands such as Ocado and Fossil Group, doesn’t sound too bad. Factor in the best-ever client satisfaction scores on a roster that includes TalkTalk and Electronic Arts and the news gets even perkier. Add in an increase (3%) in employee numbers, despite Covid, and the launch of Pioneers, a scheme searching for diverse, new entry-level talent, purely on social media, and M/SIX seems to be on a path to success.

The & Partnership

Mark: 7

Unlike many agencies in the School Reports, including most of its WPP creative counterparts, The & Partnership actually recorded a 5% increase in staff numbers, despite the pandemic. With a plethora of new and varied accounts, it was not hard to see why. It also only dropped 4% in billings, according to Nielsen. A strong year.

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