TRO has been named Marketing's Experiential Agency of the Year 2011, the first time it has scooped the prize since the category was created in 2009.
The achievement is all the more significant because the judges noted that the calibre of this year's shortlist was exceptionally high.
Ultimately, the effectiveness of its work, allied to its organic and newbusiness growth, made TRO the winner.
The judges highlighted TRO's investment in its staff and its exceptional contribution to thought leadership for clients and the industry, through tools, forums and training.
The agency, which also topped Marketing's experiential league table, added an impressive list of clients to its portfolio this year, including GlaxoSmithKline, Berocca and Bupa. Led by chief executive Rob Allen, TRO estimates its turnover for 2011 will be £25.5m, and it has maintained a healthy spread of business, with no single client accounting for more than 16% of turnover.
TRO's year started on a high when Nissan switched its experiential and dealer-event work to it following a competitive tender in January. The agency built a team from scratch to work on the account, and it set about delivering an improved dealer-events programme.
This included activity at several national events such as the Goodwood Festival of Speed and the Motorexpo in London. Caroline Earley, Nissan events and experiential manager, says TRO has 'embraced the Nissan brand, understanding our business objectives'.
Another success for the agency was its execution of live demonstration activity for Microsoft's Kinect for Xbox 360. As part of this work, TRO trained 400 brand ambassadors in the art of controller-free gaming. The device went on to become the fastest-selling gaming product in the UK for 2010.
Microsoft allotted a significant chunk of its launch marketing budget to experiential activity, so the importance of TRO's work should not be underestimated.
The agency has maintained an eye on new revenue streams, too. It opened its first overseas office in Germany this year, and launched Knit, a digital activation business, aimed at developing applications for experiential and in-store marketing.
TRO is well placed to make further gains in 2012, though it may be difficult to top the past 12 months.
FOCUS ON PINK LADY APPLES
One of TRO's smaller clients, Pink Lady apples, asked the agency to drive trial and awareness among a target audience of 'non-buying yummy mummies'.
In a strategy that saved on event costs while still achieving standout, TRO took the apples into working environments with a high density of the ABC1 demographic, visiting employers such as Bauer Media, the Bar Council and Conde Nast.
At weekends, activity focused on superstores in prime locations, while guerrilla activity around the Wimbledon tennis championships completed the three-pronged approach.
TRO's work exceeded targets set by Pink Lady for data capture, samples and completed research questionnaires.
BEST OF THE REST
BEcause, which pushed TRO all the way, has opened offices in Sydney and Moscow this year, an indicator of the agency's growth. It also brought in almost £2.1m of new business from Gu, Timberland, Ann Summers and Plan UK, among others.
The creation of engaging content was at the heart of BEcause's success. Its risque 'Sexy Uncovered' activity for Ann Summers attracted 646 live auditions from women hoping to star in the brand's first TV ad. At the heart of the activity was a roadshow, which covered key shopping areas in cities including London, Manchester and Newcastle, and gave women the chance to take to the catwalk in front of other shoppers.
Ten winners went on to star in the ad, which ran as a two-minute spot during the season finale of ITV2's The Only Way is Essex.
On a different note, BEcause also created bar and quiz nights in an Edinburgh 'takeover' campaign for bourbon brand Maker's Mark, which engaged more than 2000 people in four days.
Meanwhile, BEcause's Timberland campaign delivered more than 61,000 direct engagements with consumers, while a theatrical press launch for Perrier drew 100 key journalists and bloggers.
RPM, Marketing's Experiential Agency of the Year 2010 winner, had another strong 12 months, adding seven new clients, including Unilever, Aviva and Adidas. The agency, which is known for its creativity and sense of fun, also increased its revenues by 58%.
RPM produced effective work on large-scale events such as the Smirnoff Nightlife Exchange Project, and demonstrated with its work for Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum that it can conduct high-impact work on a shoestring budget.
Staff also appear to be enjoying working there; for the sixth year running, the agency was voted on to The Sunday Times list of the best small companies to work for.
Sense, an independent agency, has had a noteworthy year. Its 35-strong team helped produce turnover of £6.5m, growing billings by 13%.
Perhaps most notably, Sense was appointed to create one of the biggest experiential campaigns ever run, for the launch of the Health Lottery. Other big wins included Krispy Kreme, Sky1 and Foster's.
Ignite increased its staff numbers from 30 to 53 this year, and has become an associate agency of the WPP network. Activity it created around the launch of the latest Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Formula One car generated unprecedented consumer engagement for this area, with a total of 1m online views of the unveiling. The footage showed the car being constructed.
Also shortlisted were Closer and iD Experiential.