John Brown Citrus Publishing (JBCP) has had its best year yet. After the marriage in March of the two top-ten agencies, the merged company went on to have an amazing nine-month honeymoon, which by all accounts is still going strong.
The agency has now taken over the top spot in the UK contract publishing market from Redwood, which had held the position for at least a decade.
And that's not all JBCP has taken from Redwood. It has also snatched three of the UK's biggest customer publishing accounts - winning the AA magazine in early 2001, and Yellow Pages and Sky earlier this year.
Sky, the UK's largest consumer title, has a circulation of 5.3 million, and combined with the AA Magazine, the second largest with five million, this pushes the merged agency comfortably into the number one slot from October, according to chief executive Andrew Hirsch.
Even without the merger, John Brown Citrus' dramatic onward progress would have been respectable over the past 12 months, with an increase in net turnover at a steady 6%. Indeed, this year it has won contracts with London Underground, Freeserve and Charles Schwab - new business worth £22m when added to Sky and Yellow Pages. Its low points have been few - the loss of the £3m IKEA account, and the suspension of Virgin's in-flight title, Hot Air.
Hirsch points out that the industry is maturing: instead of new clients coming in at the rate of one a month, as was the case three or four years ago, growth is now as much to be found in winning repitches and in organic growth as it is in finding new business.
Such was the case with a series of design magazines produced for M-Real - a paper company. The series has seen editions of the magazine devoted to aspects of design including Light, Colour, Words, and now Image. The magazine provides an effective showcase for M-Real's Galerie range of papers.
For an independent to top a sector table is unusual, and will be seen as a considerable achievement in a market where buyouts of successful privately owned agencies by media groups are the norm. Not only is it now number one in the market, but it is also the leading independent contract publisher. With the exception of Haymarket Customer Publishing, it claims to be the only significant contract publisher not owned by a major advertising agency group.
Hirsch is clear about the logic of the union as reinforcing John Brown's strengths in newsstand consumer publishing with the marketing sales expertise it has hitherto tended to lack; this is now provided by top Citrus executives such as Simon Chappell, whose background includes stints at Sky and British Airways and who is now president of John Brown Inc. "We had become used to our consumer way of working, and were perhaps not so good at the marketing side. Now we are great consumer publishers and marketers rolled into one," he says.
Proof of JBCP's excellent performance on behalf of its clients was seen at this year's APA Awards, where JBCP won four categories: Most Effective Consumer Publication (Retail) for Waitrose Food Illustrated, Journalist of the Year for Kevin Gould of Waitrose Food Illustrated; Most Effective Finance Title for More Th>n Magazine; and Most Effective Internal Communication for Land Rover's The Reporter.
In addition to its storming growth in the UK, JBCP has grown its New York operation, and in the past three months it has won three major US accounts worth in excess of $10m (£6.42m). The past year has also seen JBCP create publishing alliances in Amsterdam and Madrid to add to its existing links in San Francisco.
HAYMARKET CUSTOMER PUBLISHING
Haymarket Customer Publishing (HCP, which is part of the company that publishes Marketing) has been credited with bringing a new application to customer publishing, in the shape of recruitment.
Having created Army, a successful recruitment magazine for the Army's Camouflage club for 13- to 16-year-olds, HCP has won business from the Teacher Training Agency with Ruler magazine, designed to entice graduates and career-changers alike to enter the teaching profession. The magazine won this year's APA Launch of the Year award.
HCP also won accounts including Camelot, Toyota and Manchester United.
The latter includes a contract to print more than 40,000 programmes a week, for subscriptions and for sale at the ground on match days. However, it lost the Liverpool FC account and its MonsterMob magazine, focused on mobile accessories, ceased publication.
HCP director Patrick Fuller says 2002's creative highlight was providing a complete print solution for the Army, including recruitment mags, a careers guide and brochures, and video and DVD covers. The APA awarded it Integrated Marketing Solution of the Year and Most Effective Public Sector Title for Army, which also won the Grand Prix.
At first glance it appeared that the loss of the UK's largest consumer title, Sky, after eight years, had dealt a serious blow to Redwood's fortunes.
But with account wins including American Express, Eurostar, Reuters and Claritas, the agency lives to fight another day and estimates that its 2002 gross profit will show an increase of around 6%.
This year was seen by many as the year of cannibalisation, when targeting other agencies' clients was a prevalent strategy. But Redwood claims its strategy is different. It persuades companies to use a customer publishing agency for the first time, and concentrates on organic growth such as expanding its remit for existing clients. By so doing, Redwood claims it has achieved growth without attacking competitors' accounts.
The year's high point for Redwood was relaunching Volvo Magazine. The London team now create a magazine read in ten languages for a global audience of more than one million Volvo owners and prospects in 20 countries.
This small but highly regarded industry player has developed a good niche in the financial and internal magazine sector, which is a departure from the traditional customer publishing agency's desire to have a magazine in every sector.
It won six major accounts in 2002, including Logica's annual report, Safeway's monthly staff mag Team Safeway, Royal London Insurance's employee magazine and the World Economic Forum magazine.
Among its most challenging and rewarding work was the relaunch of GOLD, a global magazine for the World Gold Council. It had only three weeks from the moment it was awarded the contract to create, write and design the magazine ready for print. According to Wardour, other customer publishing agencies had told the client this was not possible.
Wardour's mission is to convince clients that the division between external customer communications, internal magazines and annual reports is a false one, saying they are all forms of customer publishing.
Just four publishing staff have left the agency in the past three years.
A year ago, Cedar was known as Premier Media Partners and was suffering from the impact of September 11 in its core business: in-flight magazines for Go, BA & MyTravel.
Since then it has gained significant ground, winning accounts from BMW, TUI UK travel group and the Chartered Institute of Insurance. After no new wins for three years, these were won in quick succession and have helped Cedar diversify.
The strength of its relationship with BA, a client of 29 years, shows in its strong BA titles. Business Life won the APA award for Most Effective Travel and Leisure Title. Editor Alex Finer won Editor of the Year.
Cedar's turnaround began when Jules Rastelli joined as managing director in October 2001 from sister agency Redwood. He worked with existing teams to improve a significant net loss in 2001 into a healthy profit in the past 12 months.
NATMAG CONTRACT PUBLISHING
The fact that NatMag Contract Publishing won a place on this shortlist after only a year in business stands testament to its remarkable year.
The company may only have launched in January 2002, but it has had a very successful first year, winning three major accounts in the form of Waitrose seasonal magazines, Berkeley Homes, and British Airports Authority (BAA).
This gives NatMag Contract Publishing a good shot at its stated goal to become one of the top ten customer publishing agencies by the end of 2003, with turnover for its first year from all contract publishing activity estimated at around £2,100,000.
The ambitious National Magazine Company spin-off has added value and innovation for clients by offering host distribution with its relevant newsstand titles. Earlier this year House Beautiful carried Berkeley Homes' New Home and Esquire is to carry BAA's Emporium at the airport, extending the reach of its clients' magazines.
The company has also worked with clients on affinity subscriber marketing initiatives and joint reader promotions.
While not a high-performance year for Just in financial terms, it has performed well creatively and weathered the loss of its largest account: ITV Digital. It even cites one of its creative highlights of the year as the short-lived relaunch of TV7 Magazine, which included a regular column for Monkey, who allegedly still has a desk at the agency. Just was forced to make 40 people redundant, but offered support in the form of counselling and reflexology and practical support with access to office facilities, IT kit and training.
The agency's managing director, Grahame Lake, says: "We created some positive consequences by reorganising into a sharper, more client-focused structure. And we kept our nerve and our confidence, winning a major pitch for Lexus' global customer magazine soon afterward." Indeed, more profitable highlights for the year have been winning accounts such as the British School of Motoring, Granada Enterprises, Lexus, and Wrigley's Extra.
The Lexus magazine was re-launched in six languages for readers in 40 countries, while innovative online and viral work for Wrigley's Extra gum saw the brand tie up with MTV in an on-pack promotion.
TOP 20 CUSTOMER PUBLISHERS
Rank Agency Turnover 2001
1 Redwood 51,279,000
2 Centurion 21,500,000
3 John Brown Citrus 21,389,000
4 Forward 20,000,000
5 Haymarket Customer Publishing 17,087,000
6 Publicis Blueprint 11,448,000
7 Cedar Communications 9,800,000
8 Just 9,547,000
9 River 8,327,000
10 Conde Nast 6,840,000
11 Communications Team 4,000,000
12 The Illustrated London News Group 3,128,000
13 AMD Brass Tacks 2,656,000
14 Redhouse Lane 2,296,000
15 Zone 2,042,000
16 Brooklands Group 1,850,000
17= The Big Agency 1,800,000
17= Square One Group 1,800,000
19 Wardour Communications 1,747,000
20 NatMag Contract Publishing 1,703,000
Source: Marketing League Tables