It has been a long time coming, but Billington Cartmell's dominance in this category has finally been cracked by Haygarth, which has won Marketing's award for Promotional Marketing Agency of the Year 2011.
Haygarth's well-deserved triumph follows a proliferation of new-business wins; the independent agency went from strength to strength during its 27th year of business.
Led by chief executive Sophie Daranyi, managing director Marcus Sandwith and recently appointed group creative director Steve Rogers, the agency's emphasis on its creative credentials is gaining ever-more recognition from clients.
After strong strategic work for premium yoghurt Rachel's, Haygarth was invited to take part in the brand's above-the line pitch earlier in the year and scooped the account in partnership with HMDG.
As well as having the stamp of approval from judges, Haygarth has also received plaudits from its own staff. This year marks the sixth successive year it has been named among The Sunday Times' top 100 'Best small companies to work for'.
Such accolades can be attributed to the agency's array of business development and CSR programmes. It invested more than £50,000 in training, as well as running regular knowledge-sharing sessions in lunch hours. For their part, staff have contributed more than £30,000 to children's charity Rainbow Trust through pro bono and fundraising events throughout the year.
The internal sense of camaraderie appears to have rubbed off on Haygarth's clients, exemplified by a string of long-standing relationships. It has been the lead strategic and creative agency for Signet, owner of jewellers Ernest Jones and H Samuel, for the past 14 years and has worked with Procter & Gamble for seven years.
Notable work for the latter includes Gillette's 'World's biggest shave' campaign, which involved 'shaving' a 70m-long portrait of tennis player Roger Federer into a field in the build-up to the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. Accompanying activity smashed brand records, notching up 156,840,535 social-media impressions alongside national press coverage.
The judges tipped their hats to the creativity shown across the promotional marketing sector in the face of difficult market conditions. All the finalists, the judges said, renewed their faith 'in the creative entrepreneurialism that is the hallmark of promotional marketing, particularly in a climate where price cuts and discounting pervade almost every brand and retailer'.
This sentiment makes Haygarth's win all the more commendable.
FOCUS ON RACHEL'S
The yoghurt sector is surprisingly high-profile at the moment, with brands from Yeo Valley to Muller running off-the-wall TV campaigns. Haygarth has managed to carve a niche for organic brand Rachel's as a 'warm, stylish, local brand with a genuine passion for what they do'. Rachel's handed Haygarth a modest £300,000 budget to create a campaign comprising a brand website, social media and eCRM programme. The 'Made with love' creative platform exceeded all expectations; a supporting on-pack promotion resulted in the giveaway of 45,741 hand-painted bowls, doubling targets. In total, more than 8.5m people were exposed to the campaign at a cost of about 2p per contact.
BEST OF THE REST
Initials claims that 2011 is the year it came of age. This would certainly seem to be the case, because it pushed winner Haygarth all the way.
The five-year-old agency has a turnover of more than £7m and, under the leadership of executive creative director Nick Presley, managing director Jamie Matthews and partner Richard Barrett, instils loyalty, with a staff churn of just 4%.
Initials now operates on an 'inspire each other' ethos, a mantra that has helped it win a range of clients across the past year, including EDF, Paramount and Reckitt Benckiser. These new-business wins added to a client list packed with FMCG giants such as PepsiCo Europe, Kraft and Premier Foods.
A 50% operating-profit increase to £330,000 has allowed the agency to move to London's Regent Street as rival agencies look to cut costs in dire economic times.
Billington Cartmell may not have been able to scoop this award for a fourth year in a row, but it continues to excel.
The agency has the lofty ambition of being the 'most feared creative agency through heroic innovation' and such fighting talk is gaining traction with clients, resulting in more than 20 new-business wins this year.
This is not to the detriment of existing clients, however. Indeed, the agency benefited from organic growth within digital and data for GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Unilever and Carlsberg. Billington Cartmell was handed the Aquafresh account by GSK, while Unilever awarded it its Dove Men+Care and PG Tips business.
Meanwhile, the agency has launched an innovations department, !nvent, to capitalise on the latest technologies in the market.
Aesop, a new name in the promotional marketing world, was another strong performer. Having made its mark in its previous incarnation as Steam, this year it integrated with branding agency Aesop to form a shop offering 'promotional marketing within a planning framework' on a mission to tell 'brand stories'.
Aesop counts ex-Blur bass player-turned-cheesemaker Alex James among its clients: it has created a brand identity and distinctive packaging design for his cheese range, Cheddar Mozzarella Blankets.
SMP operates under a 'we help you sell more' banner. Its savvy financial thinking led to it being awarded the highest score in the 2010 'Private Plums' survey for financial performance, beating all other UK agencies, regardless of discipline.
This year it has added more than £200,000 in revenue through organic growth as well as 11 new clients, including the brief for a multichannel Comic Relief campaign for British Airways.
2010: Billington Cartmell
2009: Billington Cartmell
2008: Billington Cartmell