So, you think your agency should have scored a 9?
A view from Maisie McCabe

So, you think your agency should have scored a 9?

Campaign’s UK editor reflects on the School Reports published last month.

We get lots of feedback when Campaign’s School Reports are published each year. Those agency execs who are happy get in touch first. The people who are very angry often come next. Then, later, there are those who are disappointed.

I am happy to discuss our reports with anyone who would find it useful. As a refresher: the top mark is a 9 for outstanding. Eight is an agency that has had an excellent year; 7 a good one; 6 is satisfactory and 5 is adequate; 4 is below average; 3 is poor; 2 a year to forget and 1 survival in question. We don’t give anyone a 10 for reasons lost in Campaign folklore – either because perfection isn’t attainable or because two numerals wouldn’t have fit. 

But not all marks are equal. Agencies are scored on the basis of their history and our assessment of their potential. So, a more established agency with a creaking awards shelf might have to deliver more to reach top marks than a newer shop that has achieved some surprising highlights during the year. We do look across the issue at the distribution of marks but we spend more time looking at how an agency has performed in the past.

Agencies that have done spine-tingling work (especially for big brand clients) are always going to be in a good position, even if a couple of things didn’t go their way. Shops that have brought in lots of new business or retained accounts after fiercely fought reviews also do well. Ideally, you have a strong and stable management team, but if you’ve hired some new stars that is great too. The Campaign Agency of the Year awards play a part, but they are judged by marketers who have a different view.

Since partnering with the IPA for the first census in 2015, Campaign has encouraged the industry to do more on diversity. This year, we expanded the information we asked for and have published what agencies supplied. Shops should be given some credit for sharing their data when it is uncomfortable. We look less favourably on those who refuse to share their numbers.

There have been some significant improvements in the percentage of diverse entry-level staff at many agencies but that is not enough. Agencies should be hitting the IPA’s target of 40% women and 15% from minority ethnic backgrounds at a senior management level if they want to stand out in their School Report.

Not long after the School Reports were published my Twitter timeline was littered with examples of [actual] teachers’ wrongs: people recalling being initially denied the chance to sit a higher paper before going on to get an A (the tale spanning from the days before GCSEs adopted a numerical system, not unlike the School Reports). A chief strategy officer who was told they’d never amount to anything because they had forgotten their PE kit. And a shocking number of left-handed people forced to write with their right hands. 

All of these teachers will have had their own reasons. Some of them might have even thought they had the child’s best interests at heart. But, at Campaign, we only have one aim when we sit down to write, debate and review the School Reports: to review agencies' performance as objectively as we can using the information we have.

Sure, we enjoy immersing ourselves in the exciting and creative industry and spending time with its charismatic talents, but we are journalists first.

If you think we’ve undervalued your work and that of your colleagues, I implore you to lean in. Tell us the backstory to your wins when they happen, not on a form at the end of the year. Share the day-to-day but business transformational work you do for your best-paying clients – not just the stunts and Christmas ads. 

Just like in your school exams, if you don't show your working, we can't give you top marks.

Maisie McCabe is UK editor of Campaign