Naked Communications is a relatively small agency and it doesn't buy media. Yet its influence on the UK media industry during 2002 has been truly significant. As well as performing spectacularly as a business, Naked deserves its award because its proposition is changing the way the industry thinks about communications planning.
Its key positioning, that media and communications planning should be conducted without the constraints and compromising resource of a large buying unit, aims to provide clients with the best communications solutions, whether it's a TV ad, event, new-product development or investment in customer service. "We don't make money from what we recommend," is its argument.
This raison d'etre chimes well with the vogue for media-neutral planning but the agency also showed in 2002 that it could clean up when it comes to more traditional media planning accounts.
Naked's second full year of operating began in storming fashion with the capture of a large chunk of communications planning business from Sony PlayStation and the task to work with Hutchison on the launch of its 3G service. The variety of its output for PlayStation, from working with its other agencies on media schedules and developing non-traditional communications channels through to new product development, showed the breadth of Naked's talents.
An impressive tally of 18 account wins were to follow, including business from clients such as Egg, Honda, COI Communications, Pedigree, Campbell's and Reebok. As a result, the agency grew from a thriving cottage industry employing a dozen or so consultants to a business of more than 30 staff.
The influence of the original founders, John Harlow, Jon Wilkins and Will Collin, is still vital to the agency but it also moved to hire senior talent from both advertising and media agencies. Key hirings included Jon Forsyth from MindShare, Rupert Slade from Initiative and Tracey Darwen from Starcom Motive.
2002 was also the year Naked showed other agencies it meant business.
While remaining committed to working alongside media and creative agencies on the majority of its business, Naked showed that it could win key business at the expense of other agencies. Its capture of the Honda media planning business undoubtedly unnerved Starcom Motive, which picked up the buying only.
It also took the Campbell's Soup planning business from Zenith Media.
Naked's ability to impress a serious client such as COI was testimony to the quality of its work. The first campaign for adult sexual health, developed by Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners and Naked, is a clear manifestation of its varied approach. Traditional media forms just part of a campaign that includes leaflets and postcards. Naked's "sofa games" work for Reebok, taking Lowe's "sofa" ad idea out on to the streets, was also evidence of its ability to offer something innovative.
The agency also innovated with its own business. Its development of the Naked Inside concept, which involves establishing a dedicated team to work with a creative agency, bore fruit with the launch of a joint venture with Clemmow Hornby Inge. Though it continues to work closely with near-neighbour Mother, Naked demonstrated that it can work with a range of creative agencies.
High quality in Naked's work was recognised at Cannes, where it triumphed in the Media Lions with its "Warholiser" work for Tate Modern. A good example of digital media activity working where traditional advertising might not have had the same impact.
Naked kept the momentum going to the end of the year with wins from Siemens and the NFL. It moved to larger premises in Clerkenwell in November on the back of income growth of 92 per cent and revenues up 85 per cent.
Above all, Naked was a worthy winner of Campaign's Media Agency of the Year award because it was a breath of fresh air. The passion and dynamism of its founders has been rewarded with creative and business success. Its success is all the more impressive coming in a year of grim financials for many of the large media networks and at a time of client caution because of tough market conditions. Naked's work for large clients such as Honda and COI demonstrated it is more than a conjuror of cheap washroom stunts. It fights for great ideas and implements them equally well.
Though Naked was a clear winner, MediaCom is also worthy of a mention. Yet again it had a brilliant year in tough market conditions. It has not lost a client for three years and the quality and consistency of its management has been remarkable. This year it topped the Campaign Business Performance League with £72 million of wins including Wrigley's, AMP, Courts and Clairol. Its most impressive moment was the capture of the £120 million centralised Masterfoods planning business, a clear indication that it can compete with the best planning agencies in London.
Also, Manning Gottlieb OMD had its best year in new-business terms with the capture of the giant AA planning and buying business as well as accounts from Columbia TriStar and Yahoo!. Proof that good agencies could still triumph despite market conditions.
PHD was a worthy contender for its record of defending and winning such big pitches as Pizza Hut, Transport for London and the BBC.
Recent winners: Starcom Motive (2001); BBJ (2000); MediaCom TMB (1999); New PHD (1998); Michaelides & Bednash (1997); TMD Carat (1996).