Media Agency of the Year: PHD

PHD won the consolidated £50m Kraft Foods account in May
PHD won the consolidated £50m Kraft Foods account in May

A combination of sterling leadership by a stable management, an impressive new business record and a commitment to creativity makes PHD this year's Media Agency of the Year.

There is no doubt that 2010 was PHD's year. With a 100% client-retention rate and a clutch of new business wins, the agency has every reason to celebrate.

Yet it could have been a very different story for the agency, which last April was asked to repitch for £103m of business across The Co-operative, Cadbury and ING Direct, three of its biggest clients. Not only did the agency successfully defend all three accounts, it also added Kraft Foods to its existing Cadbury business, in the face of stiff competition.

At the time rivals said the agency was 'under siege' and few outside PHD believed it could triumph on all three fronts. The agency's success is testament not only to the sterling work it has done for these clients, but its sheer grit and determination and late nights spent poring over pitches.

Of particular note is that the agency's impressive billings growth has not been built solely on the back of the global Omnicom network. Only £2m of PHD's £152m new business wins have come via multi-market international pitches. New business wins from brands including MTV, Dyson, Fitness First and Sega are down to the UK team.

The judges praised PHD for the stability of its management. Moreover, it is clear that, as a company, it does far more than simply pay lip service to staff development. Of particular note is the fact that while the recession has meant that staff progression at many agencies has ground to a halt, more than 12% of staff at PHD have been promoted in the past year.

The agency also invested heavily in insight, training and research, and was the majority funder of Omnicom Media Group's ground-breaking research project into the media behaviour of the UK's black, minority and ethnic population.

PHD's chief executive, Philippa Brown, has overseen a fantastic year for the agency, which has not only led the field when it comes to retaining and expanding business, but also in thought leadership and innovation. All in all, a class act.

Focus On - Canon/Guardian 'Eyewitness News'

While every media agency in town talks the talk when it comes to developing truly integrated cross-platform campaigns, PHD delivered on this concept. The agency brought together two of its clients, The Guardian and Canon, to create the 'Eyewitness News' app just days after the iPad hit the shelves in the US. The app, which brought together The Guardian's stories of the day in images, went to number two in the iPad's free app chart in just two weeks. The ultimate praise came from the king of the tech-geeks, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs, who described it as 'cool'.

Best of the rest

It was another solid year for Mediaedge:cia, which reported a 25% increase in billings. This healthy growth was underpinned by a solid management team and a continued commitment to innovation, creativity and market-leading strategic thinking.

While rivals shed employees, MEC hired 60 new members of staff over the past 12 months - no mean feat in the face of recession jitters. The agency also continued to invest in social media and emerging technologies.

In addition, MEC continued to raise the bar in thought leadership and David Fletcher, head of analytics and insight, has one of the sharpest minds in media land.

For such a substantial agency, MEC also had a strong record of attention to detail and delivering big results with small budgets.

Mindshare has had a stellar year; it not only retained all its clients in a difficult market, but also increased its non-traditional fee income by 40%. The agency produced particularly notable work for Unilever - its biggest client, which it held on to despite a fiercely competitive pitch.

Under the passionate and steady stewardship of chief executive Jed Glanvill, Mindshare's restructuring, into four integrated business teams two years ago, has paid dividends.

It has also successfully expanded its social media offering, picking up dedicated digital business from Volvo, TK Maxx and Argos, among others.

The inclusion of boutique agency the7stars, which began life in a London pub just five years ago, on a shortlist of the UK's best media agencies is testament to its creative flair.

There is no doubt that this has been a remarkable year for the agency, which will break the £50m turnover barrier for the first time by the close of 2010. The7stars picked up 10 pieces of new business, including Habitat, Converse and Early Learning Centre.

It also went into partnership with creative agency Adam & Eve to launch Eden - a joint operation, which picked up the £10m Phones4U account in January.

Carat managed to scoop more than £35m of new business this year, including £20m of additional billings from British Gas, which awarded the agency its digital business.

Carat has moved to quickly establish itself as a leader in the field and was further boosted by the appointment of Ben Ayers, the former head of social media at ITV, to lead development of its social media operations.

Nominating the agency, Keith Moor, director of brand and communications at Santander UK, said: 'Carat is our longest-serving supplier with a tenure stretching 23 of the past 25 years - it's no surprise, because it continues delivering significant value.'

Also shortlisted was ZenithOptimedia.

Previous winners
2009: Mediaedge:cia
2008: Mediaedge:cia
2007: OMD
2006: PHD

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