Top 300 Agencies: School Reports. (Part 2 of 5)

DARE

Type of agency Digital advertising Company ownership 25% owned by Bartle Bogle Hegarty Key personnel Mark Collier managing partner John Owen planning director Flo Heiss creative partner James Cooper creative director Declared income £4.5m Accounts won 6 (biggest: AA) Accounts lost 1 (Travelocity) Creative 50% Media planning and buying 0% Web design/build 30% Consultancy 20% Biggest-spending clients Barclays, Sony Ericsson, Wanadoo Number of staff 60

Dare followed a brilliant 2004 with an even better 2005, winning the biggest digital pitch of the year and producing some of the most innovative creative work in the sector. This combination resulted in Dare picking up Campaign's Digital Agency of the Year accolade for a third consecutive year.

The hotly contested £15 million AA account was the highlight of an outstanding year of new business. Dare triumphed despite the pitch's strong focus on web design - not one of the agency's specialisms. Its decision to add more web work to its offering reflects the desire of more clients to combine their web design and online advertising accounts, and gives the agency another string to its bow.

Dare also won Jacob's Creek, got on to the BBC's three-strong online advertising roster in partnership with i-level and won the AAR-managed pitch for Onken. It also picked up two further pieces of COI business, including the NHS anti-smoking campaign.

But it was the quality of the work that really impressed this year, particularly from an agency that does not have the creative reputation it deserves.

The decision to hire James Cooper as the creative director at the end of 2004 meant Dare became one of the only digital agencies to employ two senior creative directors - Cooper now works in close partnership with the creative partner, Flo Heiss.

The two are working well together, if 2005's output is anything to go by. There was some quality work for Sony Ericsson, Wanadoo, Axe, Barclays and COI, and Dare won four silvers at the Campaign Digital Awards for campaigns that launched in 2005.

Score last year: 9

Score this year: 9

How Dare rates itself: 8

"Our fifth year was a memorable one, not just for us but for the industry. Clients embraced digital as never before. Creative standards improved - but there's still a long way to go. Planning became a must-have, not a nice-to-have. And we pushed ourselves harder to produce consistently strong and effective work."

DDB LONDON

Type of agency Advertising Company ownership Omnicom subsidiary Key personnel Michael Bray acting chief executive, president DDB Europe Jorian Murray managing director Jeremy Craigen executive creative director Nielsen Media Research billings 2005 £233m Nielsen Media Research billings 2004 £208m Total accounts year end 37 Accounts won 12 Accounts lost 0 Number of staff 350

DDB London was rocked at the end of 2005 by the shock departure of its talismanic chairman and chief executive, Paul Hammersley. The exit is a setback for the agency, which flourished in the 18 months that Hammersley was at the helm. But DDB can take comfort from the fact he has left it in good shape.

Following a year that laid the groundwork for a newly structured DDB, 2005 was about adding meat to the bones. Change has certainly taken place, but with varying degrees of success.

New business was prolific, with the agency pulling in close to £50 million-worth of new clients. Lipton Ice Tea, the Egyptian Tourist Board, Capital One and Channel 4 were among the 12 wins that kept DDB comfortably atop the Campaign new-business league throughout the year. It was also one of the handful of network agencies to stay on the COI roster.

However, DDB has yet to secure a win big enough to prove it is still the force it once was. It was present on all the year's big pitches, including Sainsbury's and Argos, but failed to convert them. But the heart-breaking disappointment was British Airways, a pitch DDB was convinced it had won.

Under its executive creative director, Jeremy Craigen, the agency's creative output has been good. Its "singin' in the rain" commercial for Volkswagen, for which it took a bronze at Cannes, was a highlight. "Scarecrow" for Weetabix polarised opinion, while the More4 launch was well received.

The agency took the biggest UK haul of awards at Cannes, winning 14 gongs in total.

DDB also launched a brand entertainment business, DDB Stream. Unlike some similar outfits, Stream has picked up a valuable client in Volkswagen.

The agency needs to sustain its momentum over the coming year, something the appointment of a new chief executive will make difficult.

Score last year: 6

Score this year: 7

How DDB rates itself: 7

"Last year, DDB won more new accounts than any other agency (and lost none); it was Britain's most awarded agency; launched ventures such as DDB Stream; announced an innovative working method called 'co-creation'; revitalised account planning; introduced tools such as Signbank and Grapevine and carelessly lost a chief executive. We're on a roll."

DELANEY LUND KNOX WARREN & PARTNERS

Type of agency Advertising Company ownership Creston subsidiary Key personnel Greg Delaney chairman Mark Lund chief executive Tom Knox managing director Richard Warren director of strategy Nielsen Media Research billings 2005 £132m Nielsen Media Research billings 2004 £114m Total accounts year end 30 Accounts won 11 (biggest: SCA Tena) Accounts lost 1 (Burger King)) Number of staff 210

"It paid how much?" was the common reaction to the news early in 2005 that the mini-conglomerate Creston was paying up to an eye-popping £32.8 million for Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners.

Yet despite the attention, the money and the arrival of a new owner, the DLKW team does not seem to have taken its eye off the ball for a second.

It was business as usual, and the agency pulled in more than £40 million of new UK business.

The agency's wins ranged from the AA to Legoland and it was on all the major retail pitchlists, including Argos and Sainsbury's. But, most significantly, DLKW started to pick up more pan-European assignments. It won SCA Hygiene's £35 million Tena account and made significant inroads into McCann Erickson's General Motors business, snatching the Astra Convertible launch.

The agency's reputation for client services means it rarely loses accounts.

The departure of the £11 million Burger King, owing to a global realignment, was the sole blemish on an otherwise clean sheet.

DLKW's creative continued its tuneful bent with song-and-dance extravaganzas for Burger King, Halifax, V8, Ambrosia and Super Noodles. Although many clients are evidently satisfied with this approach, the agency should look at broadening its repertoire in 2006 or risk being pigeonholed.

Dialogue DLKW had a stable, if uneventful, year. It did not win any major pitches but picked up work for AA Roadside Assistance after the main agency scooped the AA account. It also hired the creative director Piggy Lines from MRM Worldwide.

DLKW's unpretentiousness and strong client focus mean business prospects continue to flock to the agency. Creston has set it some steep growth targets but, if the agency continues along the same lines, it is capable of achieving them.

Score last year: 8

Score this year: 8

How DLKW rates itself: 8

"This was our best year ever. We won 11 pitches, EUR135 million of international business, hired 83 people and grew our integrated arm, Dialogue DLKW. The challenge is to keep our energetic, co-operative and creative culture as we develop. If we keep enjoying what we do, there's nothing we can't achieve."

DFGW

Type of agency Advertising Company ownership Private company Key personnel Hugh Cameron joint managing director Tom Vick joint managing director Dave Waters creative director Nielsen Media Research billings 2005 £7m Nielsen Media Research billings 2004 £16m Total accounts year end 12 Accounts won 5 (biggest: Expedia) Accounts lost 0 Number of staff 30

The first year for DFGW's new management team was a tough one. The joint managing directors, Tom Vick and Hugh Cameron, inherited an agency that seemed to have reached its sell-by date. They had to turn the agency around or find a buyer.

A sale seemed to be the preferred option when it emerged mid-year that Interpublic was offering to acquire the agency and merge it with Lowe. However, the deal fell apart at the 11th hour when Lowe lost its £50 million Tesco business in December.

But, somewhat unexpectedly, DFGW pulled a big new piece of business out of the hat in the same month when it won the £17 million Expedia account.

Having relied on its biggest client, the BBC, for most of its billings, this much-needed win gave DFGW the security to continue as an independent.

New business otherwise was static; no doubt the agency chiefs were distracted by the talks with IPG.

Client fallout was minimal. Chevrolet handed a further project to FCB London, implying its relationship with DFGW is nearing an end.

Creatively, the BBC was the source of the agency's best work. Campaigns for the broadcaster's Wimbledon and general election coverage were well received. The strength of the relationship prompted the BBC to hand DFGW the creative brief for this year's football World Cup idents.

With Expedia under its belt, DFGW has every reason to be enthusiastic about 2006. The agency needs to pick itself up after the collapse of the Lowe deal and quickly build itself into an energetic agency with the flexibility and enthusiasm of a start-up. Expedia was a lifeline; let's see what DFGW can do to secure its future over the next few months.

Score last year: 4

Score this year: 5

How DFGW rates itself: 6

"Many thought we would join Lowe this year. Instead, we attracted significant clients with an open working approach. Creative work flourished, notably the BBC's general election and Wimbledon campaigns. Symbolic of our independent attitude was Sock, a film written and produced by the agency, which was the runner-up at the Soho Shorts Festival."

DRAFT LONDON

Type of agency Direct marketing Company ownership Interpublic subsidiary Key personnel Sez Maxted chairman John Minnec managing director Arthur Parshotam executive creative director Iain Noakes head of data planning Nielsen Media Research billings 2005 £2m Nielsen Media Research billings 2004 £5m Total accounts year end 19 Accounts won 6 (biggest: Computer Associates) Accounts lost 1 (Telewest) Number of staff 92

By Draft London's standards, 2005 was a satisfying year in which new business arrived steadily and the creative product proved solid, despite a management shake-up in the spring.

In April, Sez Maxted - the managing director credited with creating Draft London from the 2003 merger of Lowe Live and Draft - handed the reins to John Minnec, the former head of Draft Chicago. Maxted took on the role of chairman to focus on getting the agency on more European pitches.

Minnec appears to have hit the ground running. In the eight months since he took over, Draft has won pitches for Computer Associates, UIA and the coveted £5 million Oxfam account. These briefs came to more than £10 million and pushed the agency on to the new-business league by the end of the year.

Minnec also acted swiftly to replace the planning director, Karen Enver, who left to join Lida. He split the top strategic role between Erminia Blackden and Brian Dargan as part of a new strategy to tailor the creative planning process more tightly to clients' business needs.

Draft's only major creative gong was the People's Choice prize at the Direct Marketing Association Awards, which named Mint the best credit card launch. A highlight was a viral campaign for Stella Artois, called "lost souls", which was shortlisted at the Campaign Digital Awards and at Cannes. This provided evidence of Draft's creative firepower and its digital proficiency.

Score last year: 7

Score this year: 7

How Draft rates itself: 8

"With a reinforced management team, 2005 was hugely significant for Draft. We won the likes of Oxfam against AMV BBDO, Computer Associates from RKCR/Y&R, and UIA against Kitcatt Nohr and WCRS. Creatively, our Stella Artois work won praise from across the industry, and our reshaped planning department sets us up as a strategic force for 2006. We're happy, but hungry, too."

EHS BRANN

Type of agency Direct marketing Company ownership Havas subsidiary Key personnel Terry Hunt chairman Matt Atkinson chief executive Nielsen Media Research billings 2005 £17m Nielsen Media Research billings 2004 £20m Total accounts year end 52 Accounts won 17 (biggest: Homebase) Accounts lost 3 (biggest: Peugeot) Number of staff 308

Just when EHS Brann seemed to have emerged from the mire created by the merger of Evans Hunt Scott, Realtime and Brann, along came some high-profile account losses to dull the gloss.

The year was bookended by the activity of one client: Peugeot. In March, the French car giant - which has a network deal with EHS's owner, Havas - announced a statutory review; and in November it handed its UK direct marketing business to Clark McKay & Walpole. EHS also parted company with Mini, withdrawing from the pitch in January. Most disappointingly of all, however, was the mutual parting of ways with Oxfam, whose capture had been one of the new EHS management team's success stories in 2004.

But it wasn't all doom and gloom. Triumphs included places on the Masterfoods and COI rosters, Yes Insurance, the Children's Society, NCP, Halfords, MBNA and its win of the year, Homebase.

But these were insufficient to satisfy the agency's Havas parent and, by the end of the year, it had begun redundancy negotiations with a number of staff, including the executive creative directors, Trevor Chambers and Lu Dixon. How the appointment of four largely unknown creative directors - Kate Pybus, Patrick Baglee, Graham Dexter and Nigel Clifton - will affect the agency's output and profile remains to be seen. Crucially, the agency's uniquely strong digital reputation - it won silver at the Campaign Digital Awards for its "Diesel dreams" work - must not disappear along with Chambers.

Score last year: 5

Score this year: 5

How EHS Brann rates itself: 7

"A growth year - strengthening digital capability by assimilating Euro RSCG Interaction; growing big clients (Tesco, British Gas and others); winning Homebase, COI, Jose Cuervo and the Barclaycard international business. More awards, too: titanium at Cannes, five golds for Volvo 'young families', marketing effectiveness gold for Clubcard. Bye bye Peugeot, so 7 rather than higher."

EURO RSCG LONDON

Type of agency Advertising Company ownership Havas subsidiary Key personnel Chris Pinnington chief executive, UK group Mark Cadman chief executive Russ Lidstone chief strategic officer Nielsen Media Research billings 2005 £209m Nielsen Media Research billings 2004 £228m Total accounts year end 28 Accounts won 7 (biggest: News International) Accounts lost 6 (biggest: Argos) Number of staff 149

To many, Ben Langdon's ousting last September from the chairman's seat at Euro RSCG London came as no surprise. Indeed, it was a virtual inevitability after Jim Heekin, the Euro RSCG Worldwide chief executive who parachuted his controversial protege into Mark Wnek's empty chair 17 months earlier, quit in August. All that was needed was a catalyst, which came in the form of two losses on the bounce: the £56 million global Credit Suisse business to McCann Erickson and the £35 million Argos account to Clemmow Hornby Inge.

Predictably, more accounts started to review. The man from Del Monte said "No" and put the account up for pitch; Cadbury, Matalan and Travelodge followed suit. And, despite the award-winning work the agency had produced on the account, the British Heart Foundation also felt it was time to move on.

Langdon polarised opinion at the agency: some celebrated his departure, others found it a disappointment. His exacting standards were starting to turn around the Euro new-business machine, winning the News International account, LG Electronics and Superdrug.

Creatively, too, his appointment of the veteran creative director Gerry Moira was beginning to pay dividends: work for the launch of the Peugeot 1007 looks bound for awards glory at Cannes this year.

The work notwithstanding, Langdon's departure left a yawning gap at the top of Euro, filled on an interim basis by the agency's most loyal servant, the group chief executive, Chris Pinnington. However, the agency has felt rudderless since and a lot now rests on the shoulders of the new management team of Mark Cadman and Russ Lidstone, whose arrival from JWT cannot come a moment too soon.

Score last year: 4

Score this year: 3

How Euro RSCG rates itself: 5

"Not many agencies can claim to have won and lost so much business in the same year. This rollercoaster ride came to a sudden halt in September, when the chairman was invited to get off. Since Ben Langdon's departure, Euro has achieved some stability and established a platform for recovery."

FALLON

Type of agency Advertising Company ownership Publicis Groupe subsidiary Key personnel Robert Senior managing partner Andy McLeod managing partner, creative director Richard Flintham managing partner, creative director Laurence Green planning partner Nielsen Media Research billings 2005 £52m Nielsen Media Research billings 2004 £44m Total accounts year end 14 Accounts won 5 (biggest: More Th>n) Accounts lost 3 (biggest: BT) Number of staff 93

A great opening performance, a lull in the second act and a rousing finale would best describe Fallon's 2005. The year began on a boozy note, when Fallon beat Campbell Doyle Dye in a shoot-out for the £10 million UK Bacardi business, although a subsequent global review proved it to be a wasted effort.

Then things went quiet. Despite producing excellent work for SCA Hygiene's Velvet, Fallon failed to win the £35 million Tena brief. And when Fallon and BT parted company in June (a divorce that cost the agency 15 per cent of its income), the graph appeared to be taking a turn for the worse.

But the agency was clearly lining up its guns: the second half of the year brought a string of strong ads, followed by a number of new-business wins.

From a creative perspective, 2005 was a vintage year. Fallon's Bacardi work has put much-needed distance between the brand and its old "welcome to the Latin Quarter" line, and the loss of that account to Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R owes everything to a US-led decision to search for a global idea and nothing to any UK weakness from Fallon.

Skoda has shown it is still prepared to bet on challenging ideas, and the BBC is consistently buying good work from the agency. Then there's Sony: strong Handicam and Walkman work and, in "balls" for the Bravia LCD TV, an ad that was already being talked about in Cannes Grand Prix terms in November and for many was the ad of the year.

In terms of new business, the agency has more than mitigated for its £15 million BT loss, and has shown it is not prepared to pitch for anything and everything in the process. It pulled out of the running for Twinings, the British Heart Foundation and Innocent, scored with the £25 million More Th>n account and, as a Christmas bonus, won the £6 million Ask.com task.

However, while Fallon performed well in London, its network suffered.

In 2006, it is this weakness that could damage the London shop.

Score last year: 6

Score this year: 7

How Fallon rates itself: 7

"It's 2006. Good ads and good agencies tread water: only greatness counts. We tilted at it last year; lots of good stuff happened. But only 'balls' was truly great. Our work (our agency, even) is good, often very good. But the currency is greatness."

FCB LONDON

Type of agency Advertising Company ownership Interpublic subsidiary Key personnel Nigel Jones chief executive Carolyn Stebbings managing director, FCBi Dan Douglas creative director, FCBi Nielsen Media Research billings 2005 £47m Nielsen Media Research billings 2004 £66m Total accounts year end 25 Accounts won 3 (biggest: Motorola) Accounts lost 2 (biggest: Burton's Biscuits) Number of staff 85

Wounded, limping and leaderless, FCB London spent most of this year a sad shadow of its former self. However, July brought the shock hiring of Nigel Jones, who joined from Claydon Heeley Jones Mason, as FCB's chief executive. Rarely has an appointment been met with such incredulity, as many wondered why Jones would want to swap the safe and successful Claydon Heeley for FCB.

Jones brought with him revered planning credentials from his 14 years at BMP DDB. With his strong integrated background from his time at Claydon Heeley, Jones is a signal that global bosses in New York see an integrated future for FCB and its direct arm, FCBi.

Jones must rebuild FCB's management team following the loss of John Banks, the group chairman and chief executive; Al Young, the executive creative director; Jonathan Rigby, the managing director; and David Bain, the planning director, in 2005.

Judging by its new-business record in 2005, FCB is not an agency associated with mainstream advertising. It lost the Burton's Biscuits and Hilton Hotels accounts. It has struggled to get on pitchlists, only reaching shortlists for Yorkshire Tea, Patak's and Star Alliance. SC Johnson and Associated Newspapers remain the agency's only noteworthy pieces of business. Jones' challenge will be to win some meaty accounts and put together a respectable reel against ever tougher odds.

There were glimmers of hope for the agency in 2005: Ultimatebet/Ultimate Poker appointed FCB to its £4.2 million account, the furniture retailer Heal's handed the agency its account after a pitch against Leagas Delaney and VCCP, and Motorola and Clerical Medical rewarded FCBi with their business.

It seems Jones' appointment shows the FCB Worldwide chief executive, Steve Blamer, is serious about putting the London office back on the map.

The crunch issues are whether FCB London's worst agonies are over, and who Jones can persuade to join him in the mammoth task of rebuilding the agency.

Score last year: 3

Score this year: 2

How FCB London rates itself: 5

"A year of transition, clearing the decks for a relaunch and further investment in 2006. The arrival of the new chief executive, Nigel Jones, in November showed that FCB USA still believes in a strong - and more integrated - FCB London. Amid all the change, FCBi won the worldwide Motorola iCRM pitch."

GLUE LONDON

Type of agency Digital advertising Company ownership Aegis subsidiary Key personnel Mark Cridge chief executive James Sanderson joint managing director Jo Hagger joint managing director Seb Royce creative director Declared income £4.6m Accounts won 4 (biggest: MTV) Accounts lost 1 (Pot Noodle) Creative 85% Media planning and buying 0% Web design/build 15% Consultancy 0% Biggest-spending clients Sky, T-Mobile, Virgin Trains Number of staff 82

Glue London's year was dominated by its sale to Isobar, the Aegis digital network, in a deal worth up to £14.7 million - not bad for a six-year-old agency. The sale was a major coup for glue and just reward for its pioneering and innovative efforts in the online advertising sector.

The year started in unusual fashion, when glue took the decision to shut the door on new-business opportunities and concentrate on existing clients and putting its house in order.

That is not to say there wasn't a lot going on internally or creatively.

The agency did well at the Campaign Digital Awards (where it picked up three silvers), produced a great campaign for the Royal Navy at the start of 2005 and followed it with another at the end. There was also some high-quality work for Pringles, Virgin and T-Mobile. This included a viral site for the phone company, which encouraged people to upload embarrassing pictures of their friends and use them to create fake newsflashes.

The agency also restructured its management: the founder, Mark Cridge, moved up from managing director to chief executive with a view to focusing on product innovation, while James Sanderson and Jo Hagger were made the joint managing directors.

Miranda Ross joined from Harrison Troughton Wunderman to be glue's first head of planning and Laura Jordan Bambach arrived as the head of art.

The head count doubled to more than 80 and fee income grew from £2.65 million to £4.6 million, an increase of 70 per cent, principally from existing clients.

Score last year: 8

Score this year: 8

How glue London rates itself: 9

"We controversially withdrew from the pitch merry-go-round and spent our time nurturing existing clients. The right decision? We doubled in size to more than 80 people; creatively, we had our most prolific year; we cleaned up at the inaugural Campaign Digital Awards and a Campaign poll in September voted us 'the best online creative shop in town'."

GOODSTUFF

Type of agency Communications planning Company ownership Minority owned by Omnicom Key personnel Andrew Stephens partner Ben Hayes partner Stephen Yeomans senior strategist Toby Bowerman senior strategist Nielsen Media Research billings 2005 n/a Nielsen Media Research billings 2004 n/a Total accounts year end 21 Accounts won 11 (biggest: Levi's) Accounts lost 0 Number of staff 5

Of the recent communications planning start-ups, Goodstuff seemed to create the biggest buzz during 2005. TV advertising firsts, blue-chip client wins and award nominations all suggested this small agency is going somewhere.

Possible changes to the ownership of its bedrock client, Virgin Mobile, may prove worrying for Goodstuff, but last year it produced innovative ideas for the brand, including Europe's first live TV advertising event, in which a series of live ads on Channel 4 offered tickets for the V Festival.

The agency won 11 accounts in 2005 and claims 80 per cent of its income is now retained. New briefs included strategic planning for Levi's, Clarks, Nestle and Pepsi, for which it developed ideas for the launch of Ting, a rival to Lilt.

Goodstuff expanded its senior management with the appointment of Stephen Yeomans, the former planning director of Carat, who works alongside the founding partners, Ben Hayes and Andrew Stephens, on key clients.

Omnicom remains a minority shareholder and the agency maintained its links with DDB London.

The two agencies collaborated on a pitch for the launch of More4, which DDB won.

Goodstuff made its presence felt at the end-of-year awards, gaining five nominations at the Campaign Media Awards and one commendation for its Virgin Mobile activity.

The year was an improvement on 2004. Goodstuff now needs to keep up the momentum and quality as it builds its head count and retained client list.

Score last year: 5

Score this year: 6

How Goodstuff rates itself: 7

"Our first full year has been a good one, providing evidence that our proposition of independent creative communications planning, backed by a major network, works. We had 11 wins, five Campaign award nominations, devised the UK's first live television advertising and launched Pepsi America's Ting."

GRAND UNION

Type of agency Digital advertising Company ownership Private company Key personnel Matt Nicholls partner Rob Forshaw partner Lee Wright managing director Richard Coggin creative director Declared income £4.2m Accounts won 6 (biggest: Abbey) Accounts lost 1 (Homechoice) Creative 60% Media planning and buying 0% Web design/build 30% Consultancy 10% Biggest-spending clients Abbey, Britvic, Nestle Number of staff 40

Grand Union's debut appearance in this year's school reports is thanks to its success in one of the most sought-after digital creative pitches of the year - the £7 million Abbey account. In addition, Abbey later moved the £5 million digital account for its online bank, Cahoot, into the agency without a pitch.

But even without Abbey, it wasn't a bad year for new business: the agency won the integrated Friends Provident account, joined Unilever's ever-expanding roster of digital agencies and picked up the Kit Kat brief from Nestle.

These wins increased the agency's billings by 50 per cent, despite the loss of the £2 million Homechoice task, which it resigned in June.

It was also a year of significant management changes, including the promotion of Lee Wright from account director to managing director, and the appointment of Richard Coggin and Richard Johnson as creative directors. Wright's promotion, in particular, was a positive move and her new role freed the Grand Union founders, Rob Forshaw and Matt Nicholls, to focus on business development.

One of their first ventures was the launch of the agency's branded content division, Hubbub, headed by the former Stream executive Anna Watkins.

The division is already working for existing clients such as Tango but needs to focus on netting new business.

The agency's area of relative weakness remains its creative output. There was some good work, particularly for Tango and Robinsons, but the agency must focus on producing a wider range of high-quality campaigns throughout the year.

Score last year: n/a

Score this year: 7

How Grand Union rates itself: 8

"Fifty words! That's two gone. Fuck. That's eight. 2005 was about one thing: new business. We pitched and won Abbey, Cahoot, Paradise Poker, Colman's, Tetley and Friends Provident, doubling our turnover. 2006 has brought more of the same. Week two: five pitches. Resolution: win Agency of the Year."

GREY LONDON

Type of agency Advertising Company ownership WPP subsidiary Key personnel Tamara Ingram chief executive Dave Alberts chairman, executive creative director Nielsen Media Research billings 2005 £189m Nielsen Media Research billings 2004 £197m Total accounts year end 49 Accounts won 10 (biggest: GE Money) Accounts lost 2 (biggest: Tourism Australia) Number of staff 188

The newest addition to the WPP empire, Grey, was going through a period of change in 2005. No longer ruled by its septuagenarian patriarch, Ed Meyer, its role is slowly being redefined.

The dilemma is particularly acute at Grey London and may go a long way to explain the agency's almost non-existent profile during 2005.

For new-business prospects, the problem has been to know what Grey London is actually selling. Does it need - and can it handle - creatively challenging local accounts or is it more comfortable servicing the demanding but creatively uninspiring multinational business upon which the network built its reputation?

It is a conundrum to be tackled by Grey's new worldwide boss, Jim Heekin, and Tamara Ingram, who was drafted in last summer as the chief executive of the UK group.

Ingram has a tricky balance to strike. Not only must she keep bedrock network clients such as Procter & Gamble happy, but make the group's offering more compelling to potential ones.

Last year's less than exciting new-business record, the highlight of which was a brief from GE Money, indicates the scale of her task. The agency's absence from the all of the year's major pitches shows how much reinvigoration the agency needs.

However, by the end of the year, the agency was showing signs of momentum.

Ingram had begun to inject some personality and Grey seemed to have acclimatised to its new WPP owner.

Ingram may find the agency's best course is to make a virtue of what it has always done best - account handling - and work hard to ensure its creative quality is of a similar standard. AOL's campaign in January was a good start.

Score last year: 2

Score this year: 4

How Grey rates itself: 5

"Great agencies are built on great campaigns. Two years into our three-year plan, we believe we're on track. New AOL, Horlicks, Beechams, Manchester City, Remington, Cathedral City, Country Life, St Ivel Advance, Flash and Visa. New account wins. New creative teams in place. New Grey? Discuss."

HARRISON TROUGHTON WUNDERMAN

Type of agency Direct marketing Company ownership WPP subsidiary Key personnel Steve Harrison creative director, managing partner Suzanne Partridge joint managing director John Hiney joint managing director David Reed planning director Nielsen Media Research billings 2005 £8m Nielsen Media Research billings 2004 £6m Total accounts year end 25 Accounts won 6 (biggest: Hotels.com) Accounts lost 1 (Vodafone Business) Number of staff 109

The year opened with two big questions hanging over Harrison Troughton Wunderman. How would the co-founder Martin Troughton, who left at the end of 2004, be replaced?

And would his fellow co-founder, Steve Harrison, who was due to complete his earn-out at the end of 2005, take on a larger management role and commit longer term?

After giving himself a wider remit, Harrison made a series of internal and external appointments, promoting John Hiney and Suzanne Partridge to joint managing directors. To bolster the agency's digital credentials, Harrison hired the digital creative supremo Jon Williams to run Wunderman Interactive. And when the planning director, Miranda Ross, left for glue, Harrison replaced her with EHS Brann's David Read and bolstered the function by adding RKCR/Y&R's John Howkins as the consumer planning director.

But the agency lost some talent, including the creatives Chris Catchpole, Stephen Timms and Ben Golik. The new-business director, Laura Holme, left for Leo Burnett.

Client departures included Vodafone Business, which went as part of a restructure, and the last of the agency's Nectar business. However, the new-business haul, including Hotels.com, Rolls-Royce and Samsung, was evidence of an agency in good shape.

The agency did not disappoint in terms of creativity. HTW picked up no fewer than five silvers at the Campaign Direct Awards as well as the Royal Mail Award for its ongoing excellence for Xerox. The agency was shortlisted for a record nine prizes at Cannes and was the runner-up for the Cannes Lions Direct Agency of the Year honour. Its prize tally at the Direct Marketing Awards was no less impressive with 11 gongs, three of them gold.

Score last year: 8

Score this year: 7 How HTW rates itself: 8

"Better than 2004. We won £19.5 million in new business. Maintained creative dominance - five silvers and 23 finalists at Campaign Direct (surely a record for any Campaign awards show?). Greatly strengthened our management with joint managing directors, a digital creative director and a planning director. So a comfortable 8."

I-LEVEL

Type of agency Digital media Company ownership Private company Key personnel Andrew Walmsley co-founder, chairman, i-level Charles Dobres co-founder, chairman, Generator Faith Carthy group managing director Ed Ling strategy development director Declared income n/s Accounts won 4 (biggest: Sky) Accounts lost 1 (BT) Creative 0% Media planning and buying 85% Web design/build 0% Consultancy 15% Biggest-spending clients Sky, Orange, COI Number of staff 80

In common with its peers, i-level benefited from clients' increasing focus on digital marketing. It recorded a significant increase in billings from £30 million to £50 million and picked up some substantial account wins.

The 80-strong agency now books an astonishing three million online ads a month following wins for clients such as Sky, COI and the AA.

The agency picked up the £8 million Orange account after a four-way pitch that included the incumbent, Initiative. As a result of that win it resigned BT, the only business to leave the agency all year.

Sky's online media account was the next to move into the agency (after a pitch that included MediaCom, Sky's above-the-line media agency) and it was followed by wins for the AA and EA Games and a place on the BBC roster.

Having won so many big-spending accounts, the agency managed to spread its business risk significantly. At the end of 2004, 75 per cent of its billings were generated by just three clients; now, 75 per cent of billings come from seven clients.

Between pitches, i-level found the time to launch an affiliates division and spin off Generator, its digital management consultancy, as a standalone business.

The agency was also behind many of the more interesting innovations in online media, such as a blackout of the MSN homepage for Specsavers.

Score last year: 7

Score this year: 9

How i-level rates itself: 8

"Winning three of the largest digital pitches in 2005, increasing our billings by 70 per cent and staff to 80 ticked our boxes. Continued innovation - projects such as IPTV and our affiliates division - kept the creative fires burning. But the big win for all of us is staying true to our principles in a high-pressure year."

INGRAM

Type of agency Brand and communications consultancy Company ownership Private company Key personnel Chris Ingram founding partner Leslie Butterfield managing partner Andy Tilley partner Martin Deboo partner Nielsen Media Research billings 2005 n/a Nielsen Media Research billings 2004 n/a Total accounts year end 24 retained Accounts won 26 projects (biggest: British Airways) Accounts lost n/a Number of staff 32 (UK only)

It is hard to get a handle on Chris Ingram's consultancy, formerly The Ingram Partnership, now simply known as Ingram. It has one foot squarely in the field of marketing consultancy, but also aspires to take on less visible projects such as product development and consultancy on business issues with global brands.

Unfortunately for Ingram,it generated more column inches for key staff departures than it did for its work. In February, Carol Fisher, the former COI chief executive who had been on board since the company's launch in 2003, left to seek new challenges.

More critically, perhaps, Ingram lost Ivan Pollard, a mainstay of the marketing communications side of the consultancy, to Naked in October. Andy Tilley and his team remain at Ingram, but without Pollard, its firepower has been reduced.

That aside, though, Ingram won some sizeable chunks of new business.

In March, it started to work with British Airways, providing consultancy on its global services, and it won communications briefs from COI, including the Stakeholder Pensions brief.

In September, Ingram formally opened its New York office after acquiring Consumer Dynamics, a company specialising in product development and business innovation. Earlier in the year, Ingram hired Martin Deboo, a former BMP DDB and Partners BDDH planner, and a packaged-goods specialist.

Ingram continues to work on high-profile, blue-chip business including Diageo, Mercedes and BT and its challenge, as always, is to market this effectively when much of its consultancy is off the radar. Its three key challenges for 2006 will be: one, to fulfil its international goals, notably in Asia; two, to remove any lingering doubts over the quality of its communications strategy offering; and three, to keep swimming upstream by dealing with chief executives rather than marketing directors.

Score last year: 6

Score this year: 6

How Ingram rates itself: 7

"Achieved in 2005: new clients including BA, Chrysler UK, IPC, the NHS, The Treasury, 20th Century Fox. Client satisfaction survey produced terrific results. Opened in New York with great client list and strong prospects. Still to do: make our service less of a mystery while preserving confidentiality. Still learning about scaling the business and market potential."

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