When Simon Clemmow, Johnny Hornby and Charles Inge decided to go into business together three years ago, no one doubted they had the skills to build a successful agency. Few anticipated its impact.
Despite two outstanding years, Clemmow Hornby Inge (CHI) had been considered too young and untested to be named Agency of the Year. But this year it changed from being a small vibrant start-up to a mature multi-disciplinary agency worthy of Marketing's Creative Agency of the Year. With a staggering 120% year-on-year growth, CHI debuted at number 19 on Nielsen's top 20 list of UK ad agencies.
Marketing's decision was difficult, with three agencies in serious contention. Each had an Achilles heel and CHI's remains the standard of its creative output. However, its 'big ideas' philosophy has produced impressive business results and this is what resonates with the clients.
Its campaign for TalkTalk - Carphone Warehouse's home phone service - has attracted 750,000 customers in less than a year. Half of these came from a relaunch in April, showing that it is possible for competitors to loosen BT's stranglehold on the fixed-line market.
Similarly, its work to launch Mint, the new name for Royal Bank of Scotland's Advanta card, surpassed expectation. Yearly customer acquisition targets were reached within two months of the launch and, according to Mintel, Mint has already overtaken the market share of rival Egg.
CHI's appetite for new business is voracious and the agency is a regular fixture on the most impressive client pitch lists. More than £100m in new business walked through the doors of CHI's new home on Rathbone Street in 2004, proving that early successes such as British Gas have not been flukes.
In particular, its £40m Direct Line win, one of 2004's biggest prizes, shows that clients with gruelling ad production rates feel CHI can handle their business. Other wins included the £3m Heart FM business and a double from The National Magazine Company: the £10m launch of women's weekly Reveal and £3m relaunch of Cosmopolitan.
An impressive strength of the agency is its apparent ability to plug client holes on demand. As its Safeway account was wrapping up due to new owner Morrisons' consolidation of marketing services, an £8m chunk of the Waitrose account and £4m of parent John Lewis Partnership's business arrived. And as being a serious agency player means landing a car client, CHI won the £10m pan-European brief to launch Toyota's youth-targeted Aygo.
Winning incremental business is important, and founding client Carphone Warehouse handed CHI the £11.5m brief to launch TalkTalk, while Britvic rewarded the agency for its work on Tango with briefs for its Aqua Libra, Ame and Purdey brands. Royal Bank of Scotland strengthened its ties with CHI, giving it a £12m brief to establish its First Active mortgage brand.
The agency has also been building the range of marketing services it offers through a string of best-of-breed partnerships with some of the best-known names in the industry.
In July, Proximity London's chief executive Simon Hall and joint creative director Warren Moore joined to create a direct and digital operation called Hall Moore CHI. Not yet six months old, it already has a team of 18 and billings of £3m. Confidence in the agency was such that Heineken UK made its first foray into direct marketing through the operation.
A joint venture with Freud Communications has resulted in the establishment of Freud Inside, run by Freud managing director Gaby Zein, giving CHI access to Freud's strategic and media expertise and creating a revenue stream. In May, CHI hired network heavyweight Peter Walker, a former European chief financial officer at BBDO, to oversee its group operations.
Wisely, CHI has also established a second tier of senior management to ensure its long-term success. New business director Sarah Gold and planner Neil Goodlad were promoted to joint managing directors, while Ben Slater moved up to fill Gold's shoes. Spreading the management responsibilities beyond the founders and allowing them to concentrate on the client base is crucial in maintaining the momentum of CHI.
2003: Bartle Bogle Hegarty
2001: Bartle Bogle Hegarty