When VCCP was named the winner of this category in 2009, some critics suggested it had merely struck it lucky with its 'Meerkat' campaign. However, its return as Marketing's Advertising Agency of the Year 2011 shows that it has the durability necessary for long-term success.
Take as a starting point its now-seasoned campaign for Comparethemarket.com. The ads, starring animated brand ambassador Aleksandr Orlov, had a sensational impact in 2009 and continue to deliver today: its cast of six cuddly meerkats helped to drive a 30% increase in quotes this year.
Another of its long-term clients, O2, asked VCCP to create a campaign to unveil its location-based loyalty scheme, Priority Moments. With consumers signing up at a rate of 50,000 each week at the time of writing, Priority Moments has more users than Groupon, Foursquare and Voucher Cloud combined.
Through the VCCP Partnership, the agency helped More Th>n increase brand trust by 60%, despite the RSA-owned insurer cutting its media budget by a fifth. The judges were impressed, noting: 'Talkability in low-interest categories is a tough brief, but the agency achieved this with the "More Th>n Freeman" campaign. It has scale, ambition, good production values, and you can see how it all feeds through to other channels.'
The infectiousness of VCCP's ideas also appealed to the judges. The agency claims that UK consumers engaged with its campaigns almost 44m times this year. Among its clients the Jammie Dodgers, 5 Alive, L'Oreal Men and Coors Light brands each connected with more than 1m consumers through social-media sites. 'VCCP is an agency that is perfectly geared to modern communications,' said the judges.
Few London agencies have had as good a new-business record as VCCP over the past few years, and this trend continued in 2011 with 25 pitch wins. Major additions included easyJet, Carling, Burton's Foods and Diageo.
VCCP is rolling out easyJet's first pan-European campaign, a venture that the agency claims generated 'twice as much' positive social-media buzz as British Airways' recent 'comeback' ads.
The agency's financial performance has been similarly strong. According to VCCP, revenue is up year on year by 24% (12% 'organically' from existing clients) and operating profit by 34%.
Any notions that VCCP is a one-hit wonder can be dismissed, according to the judges. 'At a time when clients are placing effectiveness at the top of their priority list, the campaign results for each of VCCP's brands are impressive. This is an agency that proves that great advertising equals effective advertising.'
FOCUS ON COORS LIGHT
Coors Light has long struggled to make any headway in a UK market dominated by European lagers and domestic ales and ciders. Brand-owner Molson Coors appointed VCCP in early 2011 with a brief to revitalise its fortunes, and, in an effort to target younger men, the agency recruited cult 90s action hero Jean Claude van Damme.
The humorous ads, featuring lines such as 'My pants froze, froze hard, so tight', created a buzz on social media, with brand awareness up by 200%.
The campaign resulted in a 33% increase in UK sales, with three out of four SKUs selling out nationally. VCCP also claims that it is the most-shared UK beer ad of all-time.
BEST OF THE REST
In a close finish, Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH) was just pipped to the award. The agency bounced back to the forefront of the advertising landscape in 2011 after a couple of uncharacteristically lean years.
New-business results were strong, with clients including Dulux, Waitrose and Sol added during the year, while members of its experienced management team have an average of 17 years of service at the agency.
The judges noted the extent to which BBH backed up its reputation for creativity with proof of effectiveness. Its feted 'Rapping Farmers' campaign for Yeo Valley at the end of 2010 - supported by a media budget of just £1.4m - won plaudits, but early this year it proved its worth with the brand reporting an increase of 500,000 customers in the 12 weeks after launch. This equated to a sales increase of £6m. The agency has created a follow-up featuring a fictional boy band, 'The Churned', which has more than 230,000 YouTube views.
Campaigns for KFC and Lynx also generated positive results, but what impressed the judges most was the agency's growing digital flair. They highlighted the creation of the augmented reality 'Weetakid' adventure game for cereal brand Weetabix as an example of this. 'The agency made good its corporate vow: "Our objective is effectiveness, our strategy is creativity",' said the judges.
A consistently strong performer, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO enjoyed another memorable 12 months, which included it being named IPA Effectiveness Company of the Year. The judges commented that the agency 'does all the right things and does them well', alluding to its people management, creativity and commitment to effectiveness.
As well as continuing to grab the headlines with its work for long-term clients such as Walkers, BT, and Aviva, campaigns for smaller brands such as The Economist demonstrated a robust return on investment. As a result of its £650,000 'Where do you stand?' outdoor ad campaign, the title reported an 11% increase in circulation.
Moreover, while many clients opt for the safe option in troubled economic times, its work for Twinings, Guinness and Sainsbury's (with the retailer's fresh 'Live well for less' marketing strategy) displayed an admirable commitment to innovation and risk-taking.
RKCR/Y&R's loss of chief executive Richard Exon and executive creative director Damon Collins must count as a blow to the agency. However, the judges commended the swiftness with which it filled the void by promoting Ben Kay and Alison Hoad to the positions of joint chief executive.
With a client list including Marks & Spencer, Virgin Atlantic, Lloyds TSB, Oxfam, and now Vodafone, RKCR/Y&R remains an impressive proposition.
Also shortlisted were Adam & Eve, M&C Saatchi, Mother, and Saatchi & Saatchi
2010: Adam & Eve
2008: Beattie McGuinness Bungay
2007: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO