Time for the big reveal: How did you do in Campaign's School Reports?
A view from Rachel Barnes

Time for the big reveal: How did you do in Campaign's School Reports?

The ego must be left at the door when those in the School Reports subject themselves to Campaign's prodding and poking around.

Spoiler alert, you scored 6. Well, 6.14 to be precise. That’s about a low B grade by my calculations.

Of course, that’s just the average from all 100 agencies in our 2018 School Reports, but arguably it’s not a bad reflection of the year that was. Are you better… or worse than a 6?

While the highs and lows within it are plentiful, taken as a collective snapshot of our industry, the list is a remarkably stable picture of health in a volatile time to be in advertising. 

Thirty-four agencies maintained their scores from last year, with a synchronised 28 companies scoring higher and 28 scoring lower than their record last year (10 agencies are new to the list).

Looking at annual billings from Nielsen’s rankings is less joyous, with 20 of the top 30 creative agencies experiencing year-on-year declines – although that measure has its obvious limitations.

Whenever such a state of the nation report comes out, you can’t help but imagine what the future will look like. There are some agencies in the 2018 report that are already operating under new names: MEC and Maxus (now united as Wavemaker) and CHI (The & Partnership) to name but three.

What will School Reports look like in the next few years? Blimey, 2020 could be unrecognisable if some commentators’ predictions prove correct.

Take Sir Martin Sorrell's momentous resignation over the weekend. This could be the trigger to change the face of WPP.

According to media analyst Alex de Groote, shareholders want WPP broken up. And once it goes, the "pressure on the other guys will be irresistible", he says, forecasting that all the major holding companies will split within 12 to 18 months.

Others are more conservative, predicting a continuation of WPP’s simplification strategy: merging agency brands and removing silos.

Whatever the outcome, one leader’s terminology to describe the situation is spot on: "extremely ugly".

When leaders and figureheads are in the crosshairs, there’s probably no better time to ask some searching questions about the future shape of your organisation. In common with Sorrell, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is also a classic example. He's another superstar leader, but is that an enviable position? 

Writing for Campaignlive this month, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO’s Craig Mawdsley debunked the cult of superstar talent: "Mark Zuckerberg is undoubtedly a very clever guy, but he is not the only person who could ever have conceived of and built Facebook."

Our job, Mawdsley argues, is not to become superstars, or even help others to become superstars; the individual is almost irrelevant – or, more often, actively destructive – when you want to make anything happen at scale.

School Reports might make some feel like superstars when they see their scores, but what I take away from this process is how the ego must be left at the door when those in the list subject themselves to Campaign’s prodding and poking around. You put yourselves out there and you take a risk. We couldn’t do it without you.

Mawdsley concludes: "You’re not that special. None of us are." That may apply to the cult of the personality, but when the right people come together in our finest agencies, the grades quickly outclass that of a 6.

Rachel Barnes is the UK editor of Campaign. 
@rachelmrbarnes

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