It wasn't just MindShare's stunning victory in the massive network pitches such as Unilever and HSBC that marked the agency as head and shoulders above its peers for the second year running, although this clearly played a part.
It was also MindShare's continued ability to produce innovative and effective media strategies, as proved by its success at the Campaign Media Awards inspired, no doubt, by its solid and stable management team.
All in all, it was a tremendous year for MindShare with more than £280 million of new business coming through the agency's doors, including the biggest pitch in UK media history, which propelled the agency to the top of the billings table. This built a towering new agency edifice on top of the foundations laid in 2003, which had already seen MindShare rise to the number three position.
Victories in the fiercely contested HSBC, Unilever and Nestle pitches have made MindShare's position seem unassailable. And, while they also reveal the strength of the MindShare network and the investment that WPP has put behind it, it in no way detracts from the efforts of the domestic management. In fact, the UK team played a pivotal role in all of these negotiations.
The year was not a vintage one for domestic new business, but MindShare performed credibly. It won the Irish Tourist Board and managed to get hold of the Homebase planning account, to give it control of the business (the media buying moved from PHD in 2003) and complete its vision of "joined-up media". However, it was an object of some frustration to MindShare's management that it had less luck pitching for Diageo, which remained at Carat after a competitive pitch.
Given the amount of time that the UK agency management spent on new-business duties, both global and domestic, it is to its credit that it didn't take its eye from the ball and not one client was allowed to slip from the MindShare grasp.
The reason for is success in attracting new business as well as retaining existing business is clear - MindShare is not and never has been just about scale; rather it stems from its consistent ability to produce effective work across its portfolio and makes full use of its integrated House of Media proposition to deliver tangible client benefits.
Evidence that the MindShare offering is about much more than simple scale was apparent at the 2004 Campaign Media Awards. MindShare's multimedia campaign for Nike "freestyle" scooped the top prize, winning Media Campaign of the Year as well as gold in the Best Travel and Leisure Campaign.
Its timing for the campaign was impeccable. While the industry at large debates about the potential for branded content, MindShare proved itself well ahead of the game with an adaptation of Wieden & Kennedy's TV ads featuring an animated stickman with dazzling ball skills.
Working with Wieden & Kennedy and MTV, MindShare organised a TV documentary, Freestyle Face Off Tour, telling the story of four British basketballers who travel to New York to compete against their American counterpart.
This was combined with a series of events and competitions to win the King of Freestyle prize, which attracted 30,000 freestylers and 20,000 votes to chose the eventual winner. Rarely has content been used in such an innovative and relevant way, and achieved these kinds of response rates.
As clients go, Nike is clearly a dream for content exploitation, but MindShare also managed to apply it to other, less obvious, clients such as the Britvic brand Fruit Shoot.
Fruit Shoot had suffered from a disparate communication strategy and a perceived lack of coolness among children. In order to change this, MindShare created a series of Get Good branded magazines and commissioned ten three-minute TV programmes. Because of the success of the campaign, the entire brand was repositioned under the Get Good banner.
There are numerous other content examples, perhaps the subtlest being the fact that Lady Penelope's car in the Thunderbirds movie was both made and branded by Ford. This particular room in MindShare's House of Media was clearly very busy in 2004 and has perhaps allowed the agency to claim a leadership position.
There were several important promotions in MindShare's management team in 2004 in recognition of their collective talent.
Nick Theakstone, formerly the MindShare investment director, became the first managing director of WPP's newly created negotiation arm, GroupM Trading. This division was created to oversee ways of integrating the considerable buying clout of WPP's media assets and, as one of the most highly regarded buyers in town, Theakstone was the natural person for the job.
Elsewhere, Jed Glanvill was promoted to managing director as recognition of his contribution to the agency and to help support the chief executive, Kelly Clark. Simeon Duckworth, formerly the managing partner in charge of MindShare's econometrics division, became futures director.
New business is, of course, a large part of the battle but clever media planning and buying that produces business results deserve an equal amount of credit. For that reason, MindShare is a more than worthy Media Agency of the Year for the second year running.
MediaCom must also get a very honourable mention. It comes a close second to MindShare, particularly on the new-business front where the UK office has won, among others, BSkyB, T-Mobile, the Australian Tourist Board and EFD, worth a total of more than £80 million.
Underpinning everything that MediaCom does is accountability, evident with the investment in its effectiveness department. This now employs 17 econometricians working to improve its clients' return on investment.
The launch of the specialist ethnic division CultureCom reflects the way that MediaCom continues to evolve new ways to mirror the wider media and cultural landscape.
The MediaCom management team has never been one to shout about its achievements or its work, which is a shame because this year it had much to crow about.
Recent winners: MindShare (2003); Naked (2002); Starcom Motive (2001); BBJ (2000); MediaCom TMB (1999).