After narrowly missing out on the top spot last year, LIDA came back fighting harder than ever, to land the coveted title of Marketing's Direct Agency of the Year 2011.
Despite the judges heaping praise on the runner-up agencies' records over the past 12 months, the decision to award LIDA the gong was unanimous.
The judges agreed that LIDA, led by effervescent chief executive Mel Cruickshank, was the 'all-round winner' across the vast majority of the criteria, having recorded a year marked by strong business growth, including the highly prized O2 account. They noted that, while it is part of M&C Saatchi Group, LIDA is still clearly 'a very strong standalone agency'.
The agency's hard work over the past year has paid off with revenue growth of 31%. It found itself in the enviable position of closing its doors to new business for the first six months of the year, after a stellar 2010, but profits still jumped an impressive 25%.
Growth at the start of 2011 came from organically growing business with existing clients such as IKEA and Boots. In the second half of the year, LIDA landed accounts from TUI, Kaspersky, Vertu, Google, Transport for London and BMI, which it won without a pitch.
The agency is starting to reap success from a new way of working called '70/20/2010', which is designed to ensure that innovation is at the heart of all activity for its clients. Under the plan, 70% of effort is focused on delivering 'brilliantly for today', 20% is about testing and learning for the near future and 10% is allotted to experimenting and innovating for the distant future.
Big and small accounts alike have benefited from LIDA's efforts. On a limited budget, it drew Londoners' attention to the plight of the capital's declining bee population (see box, below left) but also delivered for big-spenders such as Mini. The car marque rolled out its latest five-door Mini Countryman, supported by a campaign created by LIDA. For every marketing pound spent, the work was found to achieve £22 in sales.
Underpinning LIDA's year of growth and profit is a work culture geared toward rewarding its dedicated staff. Each month, one employee nominated by colleagues wins £1000. One of the 12 winners is then selected by the agency's management to receive another £2000 award at the end of the year.
LIDA has been a consistently high achiever over the past few years, but was able to rise to new heights in 2011 to take the top prize. The judges wholeheartedly agreed with Cruickshank, who signed off the agency's submission to Marketing with the words: 'It's really been our year.'
FOCUS ON CAPITAL BEE
LIDA launched a direct-response campaign for Capital Growth, a partnership between campaign group London Food Link and the Mayor of London, to help save the capital's declining bee population. The quirky activity, which ran across outdoor and online, used (already) dead bees as characters in comedic illustrations. It encouraged Londoners to visit the Capital Growth site and make a pledge, such as to grow bee-friendly fruits. With a budget of just £3500, the Capital Bee campaign generated more than 60,000 YouTube views and gave the website a 19% uplift, with 500 pledges.
BEST OF THE REST
Elvis was a close runner-up, according to the judges, with its strong lead-agency credentials and great breadth of standout work following last year's management restructure. While the agency might have just missed out on the top prize, it still had a storming year, winning 12 out of 14 pitches, including Sky, Yakult and Magners.
The campaign to introduce Magners' Golden Draught, which launched earlier this year, is a case in point. Beer mats, in-bar promotions and posters featured illustrations of unusual heavy items, such as an elephant, being used to crush apples for the cider. The activity helped Magners gain distribution in more than 500 outlets within six months, surpassing its target by 22%.
The agency showed it can also perform for non-commercial clients, winning the CBS Big Bus Challenge 2011 for charity Compassion in World Farming. Its design contrasted the cramped conditions in which animals are transported with the comfort of a bus.
Celebrating its 20th anniversary was just one of the highlights of Proximity's year. The agency also began working with its new and biggest client, Lloyds TSB, having won the business at the end of the 2010. This year Proximity has been on an upward trajectory, winning business from Braun and Wrigley and, the judges said, creating excellent work for its big clients, such as Volkswagen. Of note was an email campaign that enabled recipients to take a virtual test-drive, bringing VW models to life in digital form. The personalised drive was VW Group's best-performing CRM activity to date.
The agency has also experienced what it refers to as a 'creative turning point' over the past year and invested in fresh talent. It has established a graduate programme set up via a Facebook campaign, 'Gizzus a job Mr Cameron'. Through this innovative initiative it found a film-maker, a graduate of fine art, a TV producer and a product designer.
OgilvyOne posted another strong performance this year, hauling in eight new-business wins. These ranged from British Gas Business and Unilever to responsible-drinking group Drinkaware and helped the agency notch up new-business billings of £31m, beating last year's performance. One consequence of this and organic growth in existing business was that it boosted its headcount by 17%.
OgilvyOne's record of effectiveness is also impressive; its 11 best-performing campaigns have generated more than £57m in profitable revenue for clients. No wonder it had a 100% client-retention rate in 2011.
Also shortlisted were EHS 4D, G2 Joshua, Kitcatt Nohr Digitas and SFW.
2007: Kitcatt Nohr Alexander Shaw