DESIGN LEAGUE TABLES: Growing flexibility buoys packaging

Clients have held back on corporate identity work, but packaging's affordability has been its saviour.

While the packaging, corporate identity and corporate literature sectors all suffered during 2002, packaging once again proved more resilient than the other categories.

"Packaging tends to ride out the rough times. No matter what the market climate, people have to carry on eating, cleaning and washing themselves," says John Wringe, chief executive officer of The Sandom Group, third in this year's packaging table.

Wringe says Sandom is trying to change its clients' perception of packaging's role. Digital production technology, he says, is allowing packaging designs to change more often, making it as flexible as above-the-line media.

"A few years ago, packaging was regarded as a cost, so it changed rarely and only for promotional reasons," he says. "Today, brands and packs can change monthly at little cost. It makes the idea of changing packaging more appealing, especially as conventional media becomes less affordable."

While holding on to the top spot for the second year running, Jones Knowles Ritchie (JKR) had a tough 2002, with fee income falling by 8%. JKR chief executive Andy Knowles says he believes many client companies are suffering from a "corporate anorexia" caused by an obsession with cutting costs and corners, typified by the growing trend toward using professional purchasing officers to buy design.

"Once you remove marketers who are motivated by added value, deeper relationships with consumers and brand-building, and interpose someone with a purely commercial role, you send out a signal that price is more important than everything else," says Knowles. "The danger is that once that takes precedence, it becomes a spiral. You start to lose loads of weight and you think the only way forward is to lose some more."

JKR, says Knowles, is resisting this dynamic by focusing on the effectiveness of its work. "Just as corner-cutting becomes a vicious circle, effectiveness can become a virtuous circle," he says. "Clients need sources of growth and partnerships with suppliers that can add value to their business. That's always been our philosophy."

Blue Marlin, fourth in the packaging table, had a remarkable 2002, bucking the downward trend by growing fee income by 52%. The increase, says Blue Marlin managing director Andrew Eyles, was a direct result of a change in strategy, as the company focused on bigger brand owners looking for global solutions, and extended its offering as a product design team formed in 2001 began to bear fruit.

Focused proposition

The corporate ID table looks very different to last year's, with the top eight of 2001 missing due to the US Sarbanes-Oxley regulations (see box, page 32). In their absence, c eye heads the table with a modest £2.3m corporate ID fee income. Overall, c eye's fee income is 13% up on 2001, a performance business development director Tim Lewis puts down to focus.

"We have always maintained corporate ID and brand as our core proposition," he says. "That, together with an emphasis on long-term client relationships, has seen us through."

In second place is Corporate Edge, followed by Rufus Leonard, whose rebranding of BT was one of 2002's few sizeable branding projects. Strategy and business development director Andrew Pinkess says the brand was in need of refreshing, but it is also significant that BT chose to re-use the Openworld logo across all corporate communications, rather than ask the design team to create something new.

"In this climate, the last thing it wanted to do was look like it was creating a big fanfare around something with no substance," says Pinkess.

Any fall in activity in the corporate ID sector naturally has a knock-on effect in the corporate literature sector. Even at Radley Yeldar, which heads this year's table with a corporate literature fee income of more than £5m, director David Ritsema admits things have been tough. "It's probably one of the worst periods we have seen," he says.

Radley Yeldar was sustained, Ritsema concedes, because a large part of its corporate literature work is in annual reports, which companies are under a legal obligation to produce.

Even so, he says, clients still tried to skimp wherever they could. "Budgets have been cut, but I'd still rather have a smaller budget to work with than none at all," he concludes.

These words may offer little encouragement to design agencies, but until clients have the confidence, and indeed the resources, to start re-investing in design, the hard truth is, that's as good as it gets.

TOP 15 PACKAGING AGENCIES

Rank Agency Fee income Packaging

2002 (pounds) (pounds)

1 Jones Knowles Ritchie 7,805,000 7,805,000

2 Design Bridge 9,153,400 7,780,390

3 The Sandom Group 4,780,000 4,780,000

4 Blue Marlin 4,420,000 3,889,600

5 Springetts 3,099,063 3,099,063

6 Lloyd Ferguson Hawkins 2,600,000 2,600,000

7 DJPA Partnership 3,778,000 2,266,800

8 Brewer Riddiford 2,240,000 2,128,000

9 Siebert Head 2,100,000 2,100,000

10 Tynan D'Arcy 3,200,000 1,920,000

11 Parker Williams Design 1,621,000 1,588,580

12 The Design Group 3,439,000 1,547,550

13 Ziggurat 2,400,000 1,224,000

14 Elmwood Design 3,285,000 1,182,600

15 Pearlfisher 1,650,000 1,155,000

TOP 15 CORPORATE IDENTITY AGENCIES

Rank Agency Fee income Corp ID

2002 (pounds) (pounds)

1 C eye 3,400,000 2,312,000

2 Corporate Edge 8,890,000 2,311,400

3 Rufus Leonard 5,825,000 2,038,750

4 4i 3,419,334 1,709,667

5 Ziggurat 2,400,000 1,176,000

6 Precedent 2,041,300 918,585

7 Small Back Room 1,633,120 881,885

8 Elmwood Design 3,285,000 854,100

9 Marketplace Design 2,320,000 696,000

10 Tayburn Design Group 2,659,000 531,800

11 Bostock and Pollitt 1,679,387 503,816

12 The Open Agency 2,463,622 492,724

13 The Chase 1,650,000 412,500

14 Bite 532,000 372,400

15 Ware Anthony Rust 1,131,000 226,200

TOP 15 CORPORATE LITERATURE AGENCIES

Rank Agency Fee income Corp lit

2002 (pounds) (pounds)

1 Radley Yeldar 5,900,000 5,015,000

2 E-fact 4,516,221 3,793,626

3 Corporate Edge 8,890,000 2,400,300

4 Oakwood Design Cons 2,569,000 2,003,820

5 999 Design Group 2,300,000 1,679,000

6 Redhouse Lane Comms 2,295,753 1,607,027

7 Emperor Design Cons 2,107,000 1,474,900

8 Turnbull Ripley Design 1,600,000 1,440,000

9 OTM 1,673,000 1,238,020

10 C eye 3,400,000 1,088,000

11 Tayburn Design Group 2,659,000 1,063,600

12 The Chase 1,650,000 990,000

13 Elmwood Design 3,285,000 985,500

14 The Open Agency 2,463,622 985,449

15 Dutton Merrifield 2,000,000 900,000

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