In a year that many agencies would admit was their 'annus horribilis', Williams Murray Hamm (WMH) played a blinder. Its Hovis revamp for British Bakeries, which first brightened up supermarket shelves in 2001, was hailed this year as the most outstanding piece of packaging design innovation, taking an array of awards, including Grand Prix for Marketing's first Brand Design Awards and the International Design Effectiveness Awards.
While still a tiny agency in staffing terms, with the same number of employees now (14) as at the end of last year, WMH has escaped the depressing run of redundancies suffered by many larger agencies. Also, its focus on pack design may have been its saving grace in 2002, as the economic downturn made most clients reluctant to commit vast sums to the launch of major new brands, and the general lack of company merger and acquisition action resulted in a distinct absence of corporate identity work.
WMH's independence may also have contributed to its creative success: in difficult periods privately owned agencies don't have the added pressure of meeting tough profit targets handed down from publicly quoted holding companies such as WPP or Omnicom.
The Hovis work speaks for itself. The radical new 'big food' design, which saw each loaf clad in bold, vibrant images of sandwich fillings such as sliced cucumber, chopped egg and tomatoes, was the most revolutionary change to hit the category since, well, sliced bread. As well as the Grand Prix, the project won WMH Gold in three categories in Marketing's Brand Design Awards: packaging (food), consumer launch and FMCG.
Its effect on the client's bottom line was just as impactful as the design itself. Hovis surged to the top of the bread sector to become the number one brand by both volume and value(the first time in its 115-year history) and has remained there since. This year it also topped the league as the UK's fastest growing grocery brand.
But an agency doesn't become Agency of the Year based on one piece of work alone, and while the rest of WMH's work hasn't received quite the acclaim of the Hovis designs, its other projects are worthy of commendation.
Another, more recent project was the overhaul of the Phileas Fogg tortilla chips line for KP Snacks. WMH sought to achieve category standout by covering the packets with pictures of Phileas Fogg staff in exotic locations around the world, in order to create the impact of a "globetrotting, entrepreneurial brand". KP Snacks says distribution has increased with all the major multiples since the revamp.
WMH's branding and design for organic food store Here, which launched last year across all packaging materials, marketing literature and in-store decoration, scooped Gold in the identity category at Marketing's Brand Design Awards. It also won a FAB Award in packaging design for its revamp of Heal's Hot Oil Range.
And despite resigning Superdrug and losing the job of relaunching Mars' Tracker bar as the global brand Balisto after Mars decided to keep it local, WMH's radical surgery will only keep appearing next year, as the fruits of new wins from Nestle, Wella, Virgin Atlantic, and Pfizer hit the public arena.
With credentials like these, and as the only design company to be rated in the Financial Times Top 50 Creative Businesses in November, it would be easy to say that 2002 has been an phenomenal year for WMH.
But if you remember some of the work it did previously - the chrome bath tap dispenser for Whitbread's GB lager, the animal print designs for pre-mixed spirit drink Wild Brew, and last year's makeover of pop band S Club 7 - it might be fairer to say that WMH has been a contender for 'best in class' for a few years, and that in 2002 it finally got the recognition it deserves.
As well as winning Marketing's Brand Design Award in the brand experience category for its 2000 creation of the Guinness Storehouse visitor attraction in Dublin, now Ireland's most popular visitor attraction, Imagination is frequently cited as a consistent industry leader in experiential branding.
It has added 60 staff during the year and seen sales grow by 10%. Imagination has completed more than 1000 projects in more than 40 countries, involving interior design, brand launches, exhibitions, films, multimedia and graphics projects. Most notable were The Samsung Pavilion at the Winter Olympics, and 'Our Global Garden', a 280m2 environmental gallery at Eureka!, The Museum for Children in Halifax. And last month the Orange Imaginarium, a fully interactive zone for four- to 16-year-olds to learn about technology, opened at the science centre, At-Bristol, devised by Imagination.
Muffled by client confidences, Imagination refuses to reveal its new client wins for 2002, but says that it has lost no clients during the year and continues to work on initiatives for Ford, BT, Guinness UDV, Samsung and Coca-Cola.
This year was a strong one for Pearlfisher, whose work on identifying consumer insights and spotting (or setting) trends helped it win and retain many FMCG accounts.
An ongoing partnership with Coca-Cola helped it achieve growth of around 40% in 2002.
As well as ongoing packaging projects for Tesco and branding work for Absolut Vodka, Pearlfisher re-pitched and was rehired by Superdrug.Its relationship with Unilever also grew to encompass the global identity redesign for Rexona and the branding and identity work for the launch of Flora spreads and jams in Portugal - which was shortlisted for the consumer launch category in Marketing's Brand Design Awards.
Highlights included the relaunch of Green & Black's organic chocolate, which saw orders to the trade rise by 45% in the first month, and appointments by Pernod Ricard, Havana Club and Campbell Foods.
LifeModes is Pearlfisher's ongoing research programme that seeks to identify consumer needs and pinpoint opportunities for brands. Its most recent report, ImageMode, examines how people define themselves as a result of societal changes.
The much hyped Nectar card, the biggest brand launch of the year, was Corporate Edge's most high-profile project, but many new wins in the not-for-profit sector, including government branding work, also helped it ride the downturn.
In this area, it picked up naming and/or identity projects for the National Canine Defence League, Centrepoint and the National Maritime Museum in Wales. It also started a two to three-year communications strategy and implementation project for the Inland Revenue.
In the commercial sector, Corporate Edge secured wins for Liverpool Victoria, BTA, pearson.com, Diageo's international whisky portfolio, Goodyear, BBC and AXA, among others. Its annual report for Pearson was voted the number one annual report of Europe's top 100 companies by The Company Report Report for the second year running.
Other highlights included the development of the concept, name, packaging, graphics and marketing copy for nutrient drink range Optio, creation of the Amida health and fitness club, and production of the first corporate social responsibility report for Cadbury Schweppes.
The continued refusal to specialise by last year's winner Landor helped it weather the storm that was 2002.
During the year it won accounts for Baileys, Element Six (formerly De Beers Industrial Diamonds), Eversheds law firm, Danish furniture retailer Bo Concept, and two major airlines. Its win/loss ratio on pitches has consistently been more than 50%. Yet Landor had a leaner year financially than in 2001, and was forced to make some job cuts.
This didn't appear to affect its creative output, though. The bmi british midland sub-brand, bmibaby, was unveiled, as were Camelot's new in-store stands. Landor's pack design for Walkers' adult premium snack, Sensations, helped the crisps giant sell the year's target in three months.
Landor won Gold for Alpharma in the healthcare category and Silver for bmi in travel & leisure in Marketing's 2002 Brand Design Awards.
Landor says 2002 has seen it build stronger, deeper relationships with fewer, larger clients, which has helped it double its average income per client in the past two years.
JACK MORTON WORLDWIDE
The design and production of the spectacular opening and closing ceremonies for the XVII Commonwealth Games in Manchester during the summer helped Jack Morton Worldwide to achieve growth of more than 5% during the year.
The Queen joined more than 38,000 people and 5000 athletes for the extravagantly staged performances live in the City of Manchester Stadium in July and August, while worldwide television audiences were estimated at more than a billion. Jack Morton Worldwide billed more than £12m for the job, which the agency claims helped to project a new and invigorated image of the city to the world.
"No other agency in our sector in the UK has been involved in such a production and it has been good not only for Jack Morton but also for the sector as a whole, showcasing as it did the production and design skills residing in this country," said a spokeswoman for the agency.
Jack Morton also devised the brand experience for the European launch of the Phaeton for Volkswagen this year, and organised ITV's Television Matters forum, the conference promoting television to advertisers and media leaders.
JONES KNOWLES RITCHIE
JKR has had a good year for new business, converting just over half of all pitches into wins. A change in its new business strategy (it responds to enquiries instead of generating leads) has seen the agency land clients including Weetabix, SC Johnson and Motorola. It has also won new projects from existing clients: Robinson's Squash from Britvic, Kenco from Kraft Foods, Kingsmill from Allied Bakeries, Castlemaine XXXX and NPD work from Interbrew. JKR scored highly in Marketing's Brand Design Awards, with a Gold for Molton Brown's cosmetics packaging and a Silver for its revamp of Masterfoods' Revels.
But it has not all been celebrations. During 2002 it lost Anchor butter and Ski yoghurt due to acquisitions, and Marston's Pedigree because Interbrew acquired Bass, a major competitor. It also has eight less staff members than a year ago.
This year JKR handled the launch of Hula Hoops Shoks, the Weetabix and Heinz baby food relaunches, and the first packaging overhaul for the Mars Bar in 14 years.
TOP 20 DESIGN AGENCIES
Rank Agency Fee Income
1 Enterprise IG 59,487,000
2 Fitch: Worldwide 49,899,000
3 Imagination 40,998,000
4 FutureBrand 19,003,000
5 Wolff Olins 18,995,000
6 Interbrand 18,500,000
7 Landor Associates 15,037,000
8 Brown KSDP 13,228,000
9 Jack Morton Worldwide 11,252,000
10 Corporate Edge 9,389,689
11 Identica 9,000,000
12 Pauffley 8,905,000
13 DesignBridge 8,800,000
14 JKR 8,450,000
15 Coutts 7,600,000
16 ColeyPorterBell 7,035,000
17 Burrows 6,976,401
18 Checkland Kindleysides 6,900,000
19 The Partners 6,513,000
20 RufusLeonard 6,400,000
Source: Marketing League Tables