Walking the digital walk

Every ad agency in town claims to have put digital 'at the heart' of its offering. But have any of them truly done it? Matt Williams turns over the cards to reveal Campaign's winners and losers in online.


As the agency that absolutely everyone is interested in (and has an opinion on), it comes as a bit of a surprise that Fallon still hasn't managed to find time to create a UK agency blog or set up a Twitter account. The agency is good at turning its TV ads into high-profile and effective digital campaigns (the virals that complemented the Cadbury's "eyebrows" ad were a huge success, with four million views in the first fortnight following its launch) but for such a leading-edge agency, high-profile digital campaigns, with the exception of "BBC Blast", have been infrequent so far.


Grey put down a statement of intent when it hired Jon Williams as its creative chief last year. From a standing start, the agency was clearly keen to put digital at the heart of its creative offering and the recent "Yoobot" work for The British Heart Foundation showed promise. Sadly, though, Grey is another agency without a blog, and its Twitter feed, while fairly popular, is nothing more than a soulless update of industry news. That's a shame considering that, if you get it right, Twitter can be an excellent way to help give an agency a bit of personality.


When it comes to digital, Bartle Bogle Hegarty certainly talks a good game. And, to be fair, it hasn't done badly in practicing what it preaches. The agency has collected numerous digital awards, including gongs for Barnardo's at Cannes, and a gold at the Campaign Big Awards for Lynx. It has also successfully placed digital talent throughout the business. But with the Barnardo's digital account recently being handed to Poke, why is it proving so hard for BBH to convert some of its ad accounts into digital business?


No Twitter account to speak of, a sporadically updated blog, and few notable digital campaigns is pretty much what you'd expect from a network such as JWT. But under a new leadership team - incorporating the executive creative director, Russell Ramsey, the global digital creative director, David Eastman, the planning director, Tony Quinn, and the new chief executive, Guy Hayward - the agency is keen to rectify this. The appointment of Paul Banham as its new digital creative director is certainly a positive step, but he's going to have a big job on to turn the tanker around.


Yes, that 15,000+ Twitter followers figure really is correct, but don't be fooled - this is a worldwide Twitter feed, not a London-centric one. The figure is impressive though, as is the agency blog, which gives a real flavour of agency life. Much like the agency's overall creative product, work is improving (the wonderfully clever Fanta "stealth sound system" mobile app that allowed teenagers to send signals to their friends without adults being able to hear it, won at Cannes) but more consistent and high quality campaigns are needed to prove it is showing real signs of progress.


CHI & Partners surprised many when it rolled out a multi-award-winning digital campaign for the Carphone Warehouse. The X Factor work, which gave users a chance to appear on TV during the show's ad breaks, also won a host of awards. On top of that, CHI achieved success with a campaign for Friends of the Earth, which encouraged users to join in the chairity's virtual "big ask march", and won three golds at the DMA Awards. For an agency with a "client happiness first, work second" tag, it is doing well in digital, although the lack of a Twitter feed or blog is disappointing.


With a solid, if infrequently updated, blog and a well-thought-out website, McCann Erickson has made a big effort to shrug off its old network-centric image and showcase something new. The agency's digital work has been notable for its award-winning integrated campaigns (work to promote Microsoft's Halo 3 game won a Campaign Big Award and a campaign for SkCin won a silver at Cannes) and its "priceless dance-off" campaign for MasterCard was a creative way of helping the brand celebrate its tenth year sponsoring the Brit Awards.


A low score for one of the hottest agencies in town. A close to empty Twitter feed (hence the lack of followers) and no blog is one thing, but the Mother website, unless we're missing something, is just a series of random videos played over and over again. If we were being kind, we'd say that the site made a statement by being "very Mother", but really it's just very, very frustrating. Work, as you'd expect from our ad agency of the year, is good where it exists and includes the "movies" virals for Stella Artois, it's just that campaigns are few and far between.


Forget the allegations that followed it - Beattie McGuinness Bungay's "iPint" campaign for Carling was groundbreaking work and a brilliant way of utilising the iPhone's marketing capabilities. The agency has added to its portfolio with more impressive work for Carling (revamping the brand's site as a music and sports hub) and a clever campaign for Laterooms.com, featuring a live data feed. This success is, in part, thanks to the highly rated Stephen Reed, who joined from Tribal DDB last year. No blog, no Twitter feed and an underwhelming website lets the agency down, though.


Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R may not immediately appear to be an ad agency that has cracked digital. But study its credentials a little closer and you'll see that looks can sometimes be deceiving. Work, including the "it doesn't have to happen" anti-knife crime campaign for the Home Office and the "penguins" viral to promote the BBC iPlayer, has helped the agency win a ton of awards. Even though you can add RKCR/Y&R to the list of shops that are neglecting Twitter, a well-designed website and an up-to-date blog ensures that a high mark is more than justified.


With Amelia Torode and Steve Vranakis on the management team, it's little wonder that VCCP has been one of the frontrunners when it comes to embracing digital. The pair have made a big difference, putting digital at the forefront of its offering, and creating excellent campaigns ranging from the thought-provoking ("know your limits" for the Home Office) to the entertaining ("comparethemeerkat.com" for Comparethemarket.com). The agency can improve its blog and Twitter offerings, but has made a solid start on both, while a revamped website is brimming with content.


Wieden & Kennedy is perceived as one of the best digital ad agencies in town. Its website is cleverly set up and brimming with information, its Twitter feed is popular and its blog is one of the best-regarded in the industry. So where are its great digital campaigns? The agency did produce some nice work for Nike ("Run London" in 2005/06), but the Nike digital mantel has since been taken by AKQA, leaving Nokia and Honda as the only clients for which the agency has created any decent digital work of late. The "somebody else's phone" and "music almighty" Nokia spots have been the pick of the bunch.