Agency of the Year: Direct Agency of the Year - Best of the rest

Kitcatt Nohr Alexander Shaw came very close to becoming Marketing's Direct Agency of the Year. What the 33-strong shop lacks in stature, it makes up for in its new business success rate and aggressive growth. The agency added 10 staff as income grew by 53%, from £1.38m to £2.1m, and profitability doubled. Pitches for six accounts, including Haymarket-owned What Car? magazine's £1m integrated business, Virgin Holidays' £3m DM, loyalty scheme and brand advertising account, and the £1m brief to launch Teachers' TV, had a 100% success rate.

Creatively, Kitcatt Nohr is also producing excellent results. A Tube ad for Voluntary Services Overseas was described by creative guru Andrew Cracknell as 'the sort of advertising I grew up wanting to create'.

As well as being admired, its work for existing clients including Friends Reunited is effective. A direct campaign it conducted for the National Blood Service targeting 17-year-olds outperformed the control by 700%.

Effectiveness was something Claydon Heeley Jones Mason could also boast of in its creative work. A £35,000 national door-drop campaign for The Guardian yielded the paper's third-highest uplift in sales, beaten only by peaks following news events.

On the new business front, Claydon Heeley's record contrasts starkly with a lacklustre performance in the previous year. Its appointment to Mercedes-Benz's dealership DM business at the tail end of 2003 was cemented by the car brand awarding the agency the £10m DM account for the main brand. More impressively, it won Egg's £30m direct marketing account, the year's biggest UK direct marketing pitch.

Following a quiet year in 2003, EHS Brann got back on track and is again on pitch lists. Wins in 2004 included a pan-European project for Electrolux and Heinz's DM business for its baby food and Linda McCartney ranges.

Much of its recent success is down to chief executive Matt Atkinson, who joined as managing director from Saatchi & Saatchi in January, and business development director Hester Bloch, who was a company director at digital agency Arnold Interactive. EHS Brann is an agency to watch.

The only disappointment for last year's Marketing Direct Agency of the Year, Harrison Troughton Wunderman, was the loss of IBM through a global realignment, but this was tempered by the gain of Microsoft.

New business wins for the agency reflected a growing trend - traditional direct marketing consultancies winning brand advertising accounts. HTW successfully pitched against TBWA\London to win Scottish Courage's £4m San Miguel business and followed that with the brewer's Baltika account. The agency even broke its own, and the industry's, record at the DMA Awards. In 2003, it cleared the floor with 16 awards and this year followed suit with 17.

According to Tullo Marshall Warren, 2004 was its best year for new business, gaining 16 briefs from existing and new clients. Highlights included the direct marketing for Unilever's flagship Persil brand, VisitBritain and a place on the Post Office's newly formed roster. One blow to the agency, though, was the news that credit card giant Morgan Stanley decided to review its direct account, for which TMW is repitching.

In terms of effectiveness, the agency's relationship marketing work for Diageo's Guinness shines. A mailing sent to consumers on their birthday persuaded 53% of recipients to drink Guinness as a result. The brand is among those that helped TMW win seven DMA Awards this year.

A £20m brief for the AA made up for Rapier's loss of the Co-op's membership business and a portion of HSBC's direct business after its global account was consolidated into WPP's network. The agency nevertheless grew its profits by 20% compared with 2003, and it followed the AA win by craftily grabbing its £10m TV brand work from M&C Saatchi.

Its appearance on a high proportion of pitch lists could lead some to think that Joshua was desperate for business. However, a good conversion rate has seen it add the Australia Tourist Commission, experience gift company Red Letter Days, eBay's business-to-business direct mail account and the £3m account for beer brand Cobra to its client list.

Though it won only three accounts - Scope, Moet & Chandon and The Climate Group - Archibald Ingall Stretton has dubbed 2004 its best financial year. Income was up 30% from 2003 and billings grew from £24.1m to £31.7m. However, having spent the last year bedding in O2, the agency has failed to make as much of an impact in 2004 as it did in 2003.

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