AGENCY 2002: New Media Agency of the Year - Agency Republic

Agency Republic's approach to online marketing has been to integrate ideas across all media in a bid to boost its diverse portfolio of clients.

As befits the interactive medium, Marketing's New Media Agency of 2002 is an inherently dynamic player.

Agency Republic claims to have coined the expression 'permalancers' - its pool of retained, regular freelancers who work alongside full-time staff to provide a range of skills and work on specific projects. The model keeps down overheads and aims to foster a fresh appetite for new work.

Omnicom-owned Republic is the offspring of digital marketing firm Agency.com and direct marketing agency Claydon Heeley Jones Mason. It is not a pure new media agency. Its philosophy is that interactive marketing should be tightly integrated into the wider media mix if it is to be deployed to best effect. Republic provides online marketing, media planning and buying, and offline creative services when client needs arise.

BT, Britain's biggest online advertiser, appointed Republic in the autumn, initially to get consumers to sign up to broadband, before handing it the bulk of its online consumer marketing activity.

In July, the agency scooped the entire marketing and communications business of Samaritans, beating off WCRS and Ogilvy & Mather, which ended O&M's ten-year reign on the account. The Samaritans work exemplifies Republic's approach of integrating ideas across all media. The online element of the task is central to Samaritans' mission and Republic's appointment.

The charity wants to distance itself from associations with suicide and reposition itself as a brand that stands for looking after people's emotional needs. In doing so, it has just completed a brand overhaul and ambitious web presence that seeks to engage online with 18- to 24-year-old males - a group that is seen typically as emotionally reticent but technologically literate.

Appointments in late 2001 to be the digital agency of record for O2 and Xbox have been strengthened and formed the bulk of ongoing work this year.

Confidential statistics shown to Marketing show that O2's cost per acquisition is running dramatically below its target and is driving media spend from offline to online. This year its brief extended beyond online creative to online media, as well as some radio and press work.

Republic has driven Xbox's CRM activity and last month kicked off an entertaining pan-European campaign at www.konsolekorner.com/uk, e-mailed to 800,000 people identified as prospective Xbox buyers. It was further commissioned this year to redesign the console's brand showcase site playmore.com.

It has also developed through-the-line communications for Boots' Pure Beauty chain and Sue Ryder Care. Republic is involved in a number of other integrated pitches. "A bespoke team will always include people with advertising, direct and digital expertise, which means our clients don't get blinkered self-reverential wallpaper," says Republic managing director Martin Brooks.

"We put more consumer insight and creative energy into a banner ad than most above-the-line agencies put into a press ad."

It might attract criticism for its cocksure, even arrogant attitude, but the two-year-old agency stands out for a self-belief and genuine excitement much needed in an industry still reeling from the after effects of the dotcom crash. Republic forecasts new media-related turnover to be up nearly 60% from last year's £8.9m and expects net profit to treble on last year.

Its major fee-paying clients are concentrated in the telecoms and technology sector. Arguably these are the brands that have the most to gain from effective use of interactive media. The coming years will show whether Republic can convert a more diverse range of clients to its media-neutral approach and mature into a genuinely sector-neutral agency.

ZENTROPY PARTNERS

Marketing's New Media Agency of 2001 has enjoyed a solid 2002, consolidating relationships with key clients, chief among them Unilever.

Zentropy has created campaigns for Domestos and Lynx and secured new work for Dove, PG Tips and Pot Noodle. For Persil, it made the 'Stain Solver', an interactive tool on Persil.com. Over two months, it claims that more than 45,000 users have interacted with the Stain Solver, resulting in increased brand awareness and purchase intent.

Nesquik's interactive DJ and music mixing game 'Quicky Music Maker' further demonstrates Zentropy's expertise in online brand development. Web monitor Hitwise ranked it the second most popular UK kids' site, ahead of Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and CBBC.

Ongoing projects for Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and Royal Bank of Scotland have ensured Zentropy stays in good shape. Last month, it added Schweppes, Frubes and Canesten to its portfolio.

The agency has also bolstered its headcount by 17% in 2002 on the back of a 16% increase last year, while revenues are up 15%, compared with 8% last year.

OYSTER PARTNERS

Oyster Partners has scooped a number of impressive clients this year, adding Mercedes, Sony, BT Wholesale, Britannia Building Society, Yell and the MoD to its portfolio.

One of its more innovative projects was luckyluckystar.com, built to generate test drives for Mercedes' luxury marque SL-Class. The site was the call to action from the company's unbranded spoof film trailer Lucky Star, featuring Benicio del Toro. The site housed an extended cut of the trailer, video interviews, downloads and a targeted promotion in conjunction with ft.com.

The site gained full data on 14,000 prospective leads over three weeks, which led to 3000 test drives.

This year also saw Oyster consolidate its position as BT Retail's web design agency of record, developing the online elements of the telco's 'Possibilities' campaign to support broadband take-up. Oyster was named in the BT Vision 100, a list of the UK as one of the top 100 visionary organisations in Britain.

But Oyster has not been immune from the general downturn in the industry.

Staff headcount has been trimmed from 130 to 110 while revenues look set to be down by as much as quarter for the year.

The agency has yet to reap the rewards of recent wins, which make it well placed for steady growth.

EURO RSCG CIRCLE

As one of its biggest clients, the closure of Zurich Bank in September was a serious blow to the agency formerly known as Circle.com. It has shed 23 people over the year. But last year's switch from Havas' 'diversified agencies group' to the Euro RSCG network hasn't loosened the grip on any of its clients.

Indeed, the year has seen Circle win 11 additional accounts including its appointment to the COI new media roster, for which it launched a site for the government's Investors in People small business campaign.

It also redesigned the DoH's skin cancer prevention site and overhauled the National Car Rental site to boost bookings with an online campaign that claims to have generated a clickthrough of five times the industry average, and 1000 bookings in the first five weeks.

Its highest profile consumer activity was the relaunch of Budweiser's UK site to tie in with the World Cup - a tough task linking the brand to an event without a strong US identity.

It's hard to forecast what 2003 will hold for Circle. Its long-standing hold on the BTA digital account is under threat following BTA's decision to put the business up for tender.

CONCHANGO

The agency formerly known as OS Integration is something of an enigma in new media land. But its handful of heavyweight clients, namely Virgin Atlantic, Marks & Spencer, Thomas Cook, Britvic and Debenhams, make it one of the industry's biggest earners.

Recent months have seen Conchango develop phase two of Debenhams' much-lauded web presence with a health and beauty section and a CRM engine, allowing the retailer to build user profiles and push relevant promotions.

In addition, the agency has driven the design and technology to enable independent mortgage adviser Charcol Online to expand its offer to independent financial advice on savings products.

In addition to developing the technology solution that fulfilled Charcol's requirements, Conchango had to work closely with the client and the Financial Services Authority to build a site that would meet the FSA's demanding security criteria. The agency also overhauled Virgin Atlantic's online booking system this year.

But the general downturn has had its effect, with the agency 50 people lighter than last year. Yet, at 143 staff Conchango remains one of the industry's biggest employers.

RUFUS LEONARD

This year has been a testing one for Rufus Leonard, having lost the DaimlerChrysler UK account to Syzygy. Turnover is estimated to be down 9% from £6,642,000 for 2001 to £5,977,000 while staff numbers are down from 94 to 80.

The agency has expanded beyond its design heritage to offer clients strategic support and brand consultancy. Key tasks this year have been the redesign of the Barclaycard UK site and development of the Consignia portal. This drew nominations from BIMA (British Interactive Media Awards) and the Design Business Association. But wins from the likes of AXA and P&O Cruises and its appointment to the COI new media roster stand it in good stead for 2003. For P&O it is creating the site for the Ocean Village brand.

The year began with the appointment to be one of the digital partners to the government science and technology organisation QinetiQ. It has since picked up new business wins from British Medical Journal Publishing Group, Clifford Chance and the Millennium Commission.

ARNOLD INTERACTIVE

A close contender for Agency of the Year, Arnold spawned from Havas merging creative digital marketing agency Zinc and the technically-led AMX Communications in April.

Post-merger, Arnold has retained all existing clients and picked up ten new accounts. The most prestigious was the digital marketing account for BSkyB, won following a six-way pitch in July. Its task, to increase customer acquisition and reduce churn, is already yielding results. Confidential statistics shown to Marketing show its ability to deliver strong creative and targeted messages meant Sky's quarterly target of new customers generated via the internet was met within two months, with customer acquisition costs slashed. The broadcaster increased its online marketing budget accordingly.

Other wins include HP Foods (owner of Lea & Perrins), QinetiQ, Thistle Hotels, First Advice and fitness group Holmes Place, for which Arnold is redeveloping its web site and creating a CRM strategy in an industry with a 40% churn rate.

With resolute users of the internet as a marketing channel such as Expedia, Toyota, Woolwich and Warner Village Cinemas already on its books, Arnold appears in robust shape for the coming year.

TOP 20 NEW MEDIA AGENCIES

Rank Agency Turnover 2001

(pounds)

1 Wheel: Group 18,000,000

2 Rubus 17,800,000

3 Modem Media 16,292,641

4 Conchango 14,250,000

5 Oyster Partners 11,700,000

6 IS Solutions 10,004,000

7 Ogilvyinteractive 9,848,000

8 Agency Republic 8,940,000

9 DraftWorldwide 7,980,000

10 Incepta Online 7,100,000

11 KLP Euro RSCG 6,935,000

12 Euro RSCG Circle 6,900,000

13 Rufus Leonard 6,153,326

14 Intercea 5,670,000

15 Arnold Interactive 5,600,000

16 XM London 5,588,000

17 Zentropy Partners 5,400,000

18 Haygarth 5,271,156

19 Interesource 5,200,000

20 Proximity London 5,067,854

Source: Marketing League Tables

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