A UK ad revival? Well, the clients appear to think so
A view from Jeremy Lee

A UK ad revival? Well, the clients appear to think so

Is London once again a regional centre of creative excellence? It's an optimistic (and therefore attractive enough) theory that was put to me by one buoyant agency chief executive recently.

At the risk of basing something on a panel of one, there does seem to be tantalising evidence – including this year’s clutch of Cannes Lions – that it’s true, or could come true.

Over the past few weeks alone, there have been breathtakingly distinctive campaigns for Canon Europe from JWT London, Guinness Africa from Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and Temptations Tumblers (at face value, a creatively unpromising Mars-owned cat-treat brand) from Adam & Eve/DDB. Indeed, the latter shop, despite only holding a few Unilever brands, was named the FMCG giant’s agency of the year last week, with its pan-European Wall’s campaign earning a top gong from the chief executive, Paul Polman, in front of guests including John Wren. The agency must be subtly walking a little taller after knocking Unilever’s biggest agency, Lowe & Partners, off the perch – Wren’s delight at the prospect of getting more work out of the company was probably more apparent. Bartle Bogle Hegarty, meanwhile, has been knocking them out of the park for years, most obviously on Lynx/Axe.

And where good work starts, new business has followed with JWT London picking up a global brief from the Indian conglomerate Tata to try to humanise an unexciting corporate behemoth and Adam & Eve/DDB extending its relationship further with Unilever. If anyone doubted the link between creative success and new-business performance, then this should silence them.

London agencies are showing that pan-regional work needn't be characterised by the ordinary and the bland

For a long time, pan-regional work has been characterised by the ordinary, the bland and the downright banal (and, in some cases, such as Y&R Paris’ consistently lamentable work for Colgate, continues to be), but the London agencies mentioned above – among others – are showing that this doesn’t need to be the case.

So what’s causing this revival? London has, after all, always been a magnet for global talent – it’s a consequence of its openness. Perhaps agencies’ investment in labs and new product development, as well as the allied success of Tech City, has meant that they have become faster-moving and smarter.

Maybe also the cruel ravages of the recession have meant a tightening of effectiveness, resulting in better planners and better planning.

Either way, it’s pleasing to see so many clients decide to use UK agencies to create communications strategies that will play out on a bigger stage. If it’s the start of a wider and sustainable trend, then speculative chat of a new golden age for the UK ad industry might not seem restricted to a handful of shops and a few happy agency chiefs.