Despite fierce competition from Naked and Initiative, MindShare triumphed in a tough year for the media industry, showing maturity and good new-business wins.

Anointing a Media Agency of the Year for 2003 was a tough decision, not because there were too many worthy candidates, but because the current economic climate has made it hard to shine. Even so, in 2003, MindShare achieved a momentum and maturity that matched its claimed positioning and is a worthy winner.

For more than half the year, the agency led Campaign's new-business league.

On top of this impressive domestic new-business effort, MindShare also made significant structural changes and expanded its House of Media proposition.

While all agencies found new business pretty thin on the ground, MindShare had a respectable year. It filled the financial client hole in its books when it wrested Abbey from Carat ahead of the bank's relaunch, an astonishing achievement given the length of the relationship between the Abbey and Carat.

Other notable wins include the Nestle coffee business from Universal McCann, which was consolidated with its existing Nestle foods account, and the centralised Homebase and Argos account, which moved from PHD.

Smaller wins include Pharmacia and Cisco Systems.

However, MindShare lost the HP Bulmers account, which was bought by Scottish & Newcastle and moved to Starcom MediaVest without a pitch. It resigned the Telegraph Group buying account after its planning brief was snatched by Naked Inside - a blow, yes, but indicative of MindShare's intentions only to handle "joined-up media" projects.

While new-business wins were creditable, the main change seems to be in the positioning, which has acquired a clarity and focus. Much credit for this must go to the agency's new chief executive, Kelly Clark, and to MindShare's worldwide chief strategic and planning officer, Nick Emery, who oversees the agency with a benevolent eye. They reinvigorated a top-drawer management team including Nick Theakstone, the investment director, and one of the top negotiators in town who will surely take a key role in WPP's centralised media negotiation organisation Group M, the communications director, Rosie Faulkner, and the futures director, Jed Glanvill. Group M has yet to realise its potential, but MindShare, Mediaedge:cia, BJK&E and Media Insight's combined billings make a formidable negotiation force with Theakstone at the helm. Sandra Collins was also appointed as the new-business director at the end of last year.

Structurally, MindShare added many strings to its bow in 2003. It pins its proposition on the House of Media and added three new rooms: cause-related marketing, film and data planning.

The cause-related marketing department launched to offer clients solutions on this discipline. Kit Kat used its advice in a tie-in with the Break Charity for the "Britain's biggest break" campaign. The film room is designed to provide clients with access to the Hollywood studios.

Duncan Northey joined from ZenithOptimedia in March to run the data planning division, which works with clients' customer databases to define target audiences based on existing customers.

Richard Armstrong was another senior hiring, joining from Ogilvy & Mather Singapore in August as a managing partner. He was a senior creative agency account planner and was hired to help MindShare generate and make better use of business and consumer insights.

In October, MindShare formed a new sports marketing business combining the existing BroadMind sponsorship division with Global Sportnet, another WPP company. The business focuses on providing new and existing clients with strategic consulting, identification and purchase of sponsorship opportunities.

MindShare's mDigital joined forces with Ogilvy Interactive to form mOne, a digital and direct agency combining mDigital's online and interactive media skills with OgilvyOne's search engine optimisation and consultancy skills.

MindShare has always endeavoured to be at the forefront of creative media solutions and this was borne out with work carried out in 2003.

The Campaign Media Award-winning "Britain's biggest break" campaign is a case in point. While "Have a break. Have a Kit Kat" has universal awareness, MindShare was challenged to generate greater impact and renewed interest.

It rose to the challenge with an integrated campaign. Creative media campaigns for other clients including Warburtons, Nike and Heineken confirm that innovation runs through the agency.

It is MindShare's ability to innovate and yet continue to have the scale of business to make it a major player that marks it above its rivals.

Other agencies deserve very honourable mentions, though. Initiative underwent the sort of rebranding that only those who work there probably noticed, but it dropped the word "media" from its name in recognition of the services it now offers. The agency sought to move upstream in clients' communications planning, with Tony Manwaring's return as the communications planning director particularly welcome.

Via its European network, Initiative won the Orange and Freeserve accounts from Media Planning Group and Walker Media respectively. It also landed the centralised General Motors account.

Naked was also a popular agency on our shortlist. It made important and interesting strategic developments, including the launch of Naked Inside with Clemmow Hornby Inge, Naked Amsterdam and Naked Ambition. Naked also shone at the Campaign Media Awards, taking gold for the 118 118 campaign.

Recent winners: Naked (2002); Starcom Motive (2001); BBJ (2000); MediaCom TMB (1999); New PHD (1998).