What a year Bartle Bogle Hegarty has had. Marketing's Creative Agency of the Year has pursued an agenda of effectiveness and creativity that has consistently paid off, with advertisers rewarding it with a colossal £300m worth of new business in 2005.
This marks the third time BBH has been crowned Agency of the Year, a title it last held in 2003. At the time, many believed, or even secretly hoped, that things could not get any better for the agency. They were wrong.
BBH's new business wins this year read like a list of the top UK advertisers and its appointment to handle Unilever's £180m Persil/Omo business is eclipsed only by its triumph in the £60m British Airways pitch. The airline's decision to review its 23-year relationship with Maurice and Charles Saatchi was met with much agitation by top UK agencies, which regard the business as the pinnacle of UK ad accounts.
The agency is now tasked with helping BA reclaim its status as the world's favourite airline. The appointment is an endorsement of its ability to create a distinguished ad campaign, and its understanding of the predicaments facing the UK's flagship carrier.
BBH also grew its business with Unilever; after being awarded the Vaseline account without a pitch, it won the bulk of the FMCG giant's Persil/Omo laundry brand in key markets around the world, including the UK, after a drawn-out pitch against incumbents JWT and Lowe Worldwide.
These impressive wins superseded several others that would already have made BBH a strong contender for Agency of the Year. In January, Diageo handed it the global advertising brief for Smirnoff Ice; it has also won a place on the COI's £200m roster and Dunlop's £10m European business.
For existing clients, BBH has continued to perform strongly. Its advertising for KFC, despite attracting complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority, has got results. Its often strange and comical ads embedded the brand's price proposition in consumers' minds, a key component in the fast-food market. The work helped increase frequency of visits to KFC outlets and boost sales.
The agency's Barclaycard 'Stay Barclaycalm' campaign, aimed at allaying consumer concerns about credit card security, has helped the company surpass its competitors on several scores. It is too early to tell how effective parent company Barclays is finding BBH's 'Now there's a thought' ads, which broke a few weeks ago.
Apart from resigning two pieces of business, ITV and Bisto, little BBH has done this year can be criticised. But the agency does have its detractors.
Its work for flagship account Levi's may still hit the headlines, but some believe it does not stand out in the same way as the jeans company's ads of old.
BBH answers this criticism by claiming it has stabilised a long-term decline in awareness in what is a tough and competitive market. The same critics point to another BBH client, Woolworths. With the retailer's marketing chief Stephen Robertson admitting recently that he expects weak sales over the crucial Christmas period, some are wondering whether BBH will become a casualty of its continuing decline.
With the same vigour it applied to new business, BBH has set about expanding its offering. Its continuing commitment to developing content as a tool for brands to engage with consumers is demonstrated by the recently launched Audi Channel, a dedicated branded digital TV channel.
With the changing media landscape at the forefront of advertisers' minds, BBH's most significant appointment this year has been that of former Soul partner Kevin Brown. He rejoined the agency to lead a team of engagement planners whose job will be to understand how consumers interact with content. What they learn will inform BBH's entire communications process.
In 2005 the agency's managing director, Derek Robson, left to join Goodby Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco. He was replaced by Ben Fennel, previously regional chief executive of BBH Asia-Pacific.
As well as increasing its billings by £100m to £360m, the agency has upped its London staff numbers by 88 people to 383. Both figures are likely to increase dramatically now it has Persil and the BA business to serve, but with a recent IPA survey showing it was the agency most people would like to work for, it should have few problems recruiting.
PREVIOUS WINNERS 2004: Clemmow Hornby Inge 2003: Bartle Bogle Hegarty 2002: Mother
BEST OF THE REST
If ever proof were needed that no one person - or, indeed, four - is bigger than the company they work for, it would be RKCR/Y&R. Following the departure of three of the four agency founders over the past two years, it is to the credit of chief executive James Murphy and his team that the agency has yet to lose any business and was a close contender for Creative Agency of the Year.
Some of the year's most effective advertising has been produced by this agency, not least its work for Marks & Spencer. After drafting in models Twiggy, Erin O'Connor, Laura Bailey and Noemie Lenoir to star in its ads, RKCR/Y&R has brought M&S back into the headlines for positive reasons.
Its 'Your M&S' ads have been attributed by the retailer's chief executive Stuart Rose as a major contributor to an overall sales increase and rise in its share price to a three-year high.
As well as winning new business from Hertz and BAE Systems, RKCR/Y&R also produced some of its best work for one of its founding clients, Virgin. Its highly successful 'Return to the train' integrated campaign for Virgin Trains, featuring clips from classic films, increased visits to its website by 1500 to 5000 a week.
The Delaney Lund Knox Warren success story goes on. Over the past 12 months it has picked up £130m worth of new business, and in February stock market-listed marketing services group Creston announced that it was buying the agency for £38m.
In the same month, DLKW reeled in The AA's £20m business without a pitch. It was also appointed by SCA Hygiene to handle the £34m advertising for Tena, and won briefs for General Motors that had been held by Lowe and McCann-Erickson, including the combined £48m European Astra and Vectra advertising business.
The good news for DLKW's clients is that under the terms of its sale to Creston, the agency will continue to be run by the same management team - for the time being, at least.
Last year's Creative Agency of the Year, Clemmow Hornby Inge, has suffered growing pains, but that has not stopped it scooping up more than £100m of new business, including the £35m Argos account, Ferrero, Teletext and Weight Watchers. But the most interesting development has been its encroachment on Saatchi & Saatchi's Toyota business, despite not having a European network.
The agency created its first ads for Toyota this year for the Aygo's European launch; the car marque liked what it saw, and awarded CHI the £35m Corolla business in August and the £50m Yaris account last month.
However, it has not all been good news for CHI. In early November Waitrose dropped the agency from its roster; a week later Direct Line took its £40m business to M&C Saatchi.
In its first full year of independence, WCRS' achievements deserve acclaim.
Not only has it produced some of the industry's most creative advertising, it has also strengthened its management. In April, joint managing director Debbie Klein was promoted to chief executive and her first move was to install Will Orr from Mother as managing director. With these two at the helm, the agency has created striking advertising for existing clients including BMW, Mini and 118 118.
Its most high-profile work is for mobile phone operator 3, most notably its 'Tupperzik' campaign, which, although bizarre, was impossible to ignore, and has helped 3 become the UK's fastest-growing mobile operator, with more than 3m customers.
WCRS also picked up several pieces of new business in 2005. In April it landed the £22m Abbey advertising account and in July Heinz appointed it to handle its soup advertising. Cable & Wireless also appointed WCRS to work on its broadband service, Bulldog; the agency created its 'Open the gate' campaign, launched last month.
The one to watch in 2006 is DDB London. After a few years of decline, the Omnicom agency is getting back on its feet under the leadership of chief executive Paul Hammersley.
At the end of last year it pulled in the £15m account for Weetabix. This year it has gone on to pick up business from Channel 4, Capital One and RHM Foods. As well as creating the £5m launch campaign for Channel 4 digital channel More4, which attracted an impressive 2% audience share on its opening night, DDB oversaw The Guardian's advertising for its September Berliner relaunch. The agency also created the much-heralded ad for the Volkswagen GTi, an update of Gene Kelly's Singin' in the Rain.
All this, combined with a revamped planning department under chief strategy officer David Hackworthy, should put DDB in place to achieve strong results over the next year.