In choosing Marketing's Creative Agency of the Year, new business records naturally play an important role in the decision; they are a useful indicator of the general well-being of an agency. Of paramount importance, however, is evidence of effectiveness. It is to the credit of RKCR/Y&R that it managed to deliver on both criteria. And, in an addition to Marketing's selection process, it, along with runner-up Fallon, received the most votes from its peers.
The agency's triumph in the IPA Effectiveness Awards, taking the Grand Prix for its 'Your M&S' campaign for Marks & Spencer, is characteristic of the strength of RKCR/Y&R's body of work for the retailer. The ad campaign was not only beautifully produced and a plaudit winner within the advertising village, it was also part of an ad strategy that turned around the fortunes of a company that only two years ago faced the prospect of a takeover by Arcadia Group chief executive Philip Green.
After the retailer invested in a root-and-branch revamp that involved new product ranges and retail design, the ads helped generate an additional 19m customer visits, as well as contributing to a 10.5% rise in UK sales in the six months to the end of September. The work was singled out in M&S' interim results as 'strong' and a contributing factor to its momentum. It must have been gratifying for M&S marketing director Steven Sharp to have won Marketer of the Year at The Marketing Society Awards on the basis of this success.
While M&S is the agency's most prominent success story, RKCR/Y&R has certainly not pinned its fortunes on the success of one brand. This year it produced memorable advertising for Land Rover - a finalist in The Marketing Society Awards' International Brand Development category - and Visit London, while its work for Virgin Group was particularly impressive.
The agency's brave and insightful use of model Kate Moss in a Virgin Mobile campaign was memorable for helping rehabilitate her career after the 2005 drugs scandal when other brands dropped her. The brand won a Marketing Achievement Award at The Marketing Society Awards.
RKCR/Y&R's follow-up work to last year's 'Return of the train' campaign for Virgin Trains, which it claims achieved a return on investment of £9 for every £1 spent, was also of a high calibre, while activity for Virgin Atlantic, despite being outspent by a ratio of 8:1 by BA, resulted in a higher advocacy and consideration rating than its rival.
The agency's new business record is exemplary. Particularly sweet was its addition to the BBC's £20m advertising roster alongside Fallon after two of the other roster agencies, DFGW and Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, were knocked out.
RKCR/Y&R continued to do well out of the COI, with additional briefs from the now-defunct Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for fire service recruitment and a number of crime-related ad campaigns from the Home Office. The agency also scooped BT's £17m global B2B account after a final shoot-out against McCann Erickson.
Additions to the agency line-up included the senior creative team behind DDB's renowned Singin' in the Rain spot for VW Golf, Steve Jones and Martin Loraine, which will bolster RKCR/Y&R's creative reputation. They join a solid and stable agency run by a highly competent management team, led by chief executive James Murphy, which took up the reins when founding partners Jim Kelly and MT Rainey left last year. It is to Murphy's credit that he has made the management transition so effortlessly.
RKCR/Y&R is justified in looking back on 2006 with satisfaction. Its work has been consistently excellent and, more important, produced effective results, translating into a good record of new business. Matching the success of this year's work for M&S will be a challenge, but with the BBC now a client, the opportunity is there to maintain the momentum that has seen RKCR/Y&R judged such a worthy winner.
2005 Bartle Bogle Hegarty
2004 Clemmow Hornby Inge
2003 Bartle Bogle Hegarty
BEST OF THE REST
It was a tough call denying Fallon the 2006 top prize after it created one of the most talked-about ad campaigns of the year. Rising to the challenge that Sony had lost its premium status due to increasing product parity, Fallon created the acclaimed 'Balls' ad based on the premise that the brand's Bravia TVs provided colour 'like no other'.
Surpassing the success of this campaign - it was downloaded 1.8m times - was always going to be difficult, but Fallon rose to the challenge and followed it up with 'Paint', which is likely to continue to see the agency's staff troupe on stage at awards ceremonies next year.
The execution, directed by Jonathan Glazer, attracted nearly 100,000 visits to its dedicated website on the day it first aired and achieved 29% awareness, making Bravia the best-known LCD TV brand. Sony has reportedly been forced to add a factory to cope with demand for the sets.
Fallon has also been consistently creative in work for other clients. Its maiden activity for Orange, whose UK business it won following a realignment by owner France Telecom, is strong; in its first work for Ask.com, it took the brave decision to retire brand icon Jeeves; and it replaced More Th>n's Lucky the dog with the 'Normal is great' strapline. Its baby managing director ads for Velvet toilet tissue were another creative highlight.
Fallon's work for the BBC has been shown to have contributed to a 7% growth in Radio 1's weekly reach, and the agency has won more work from the broadcaster's digital and radio brands. All in all, a great year that fell only just short of RKCR's.
It is a remarkable accomplishment that last year's new kid on the block, Beattie McGuinness Bungay, matured so rapidly, with a new business record in its first full year that put many of its rivals to shame. Highlights included McCain - which it won from Trevor Beattie and Andrew McGuinness' former agency TBWA\London - Selfridges, Carling and Npower, while its work for Lea & Perrins achieved a remarkable turnaround in sales. Its only losses were French Connection, a brand Beattie helped make famous in the 90s but which had failed to adapt to a new millennium, and Heinz.
An honourable mention is due to Mother, which, despite losing £70m of Orange billings, put in a solid new business and creative performance that produced results for clients and votes from its peers.
Wins included Pot Noodle, PG Tips and Schweppes; the agency also won incremental business from existing clients including Coca-Cola. Its initial work for Pot Noodle - 'Fuel of Britain' - was particularly impressive. As well as garnering useful media coverage, including a preview on ITV Wales, it turned around the brand's fortunes from a 25% year-on-year decline to a 1.5% sales uplift. The 'slag of snacks' had been reinvented.
It is also testament to Mother's relationship with Orange's UK marketing department that it retained the Orange Goldspot national cinema campaign following a head-to-head pitch against Fallon. Orange Goldspot is the UK's most-awarded UK campaign, having won at the D&ADs and Cannes, and has featured stars including Patrick Swayze and Steven Seagal.
For DLKW, too, there was much to be proud about in 2006. While its advertising, focused as it is on jingles, may never be fashionable among its peers, it appears to be with the general public. The agency emerged successful from a three-month review of Morrisons' £38m advertising account and picked up incremental business in the form of a pan-European brief from General Motors for Vauxhall Opel and £6m of Clerical Medical business.
The effectiveness of DLKW's advertising is apparent in its work for the launch of Branston Beans from Premier Foods. The challenge was considerable - Heinz had dominated the market for years and the agency realised that the best way to persuade consumers to change their choice of bean was through sampling. It was not practical to get the whole nation to sample, so the 'Great British Bean Poll' ad campaign was born.
An astonishing 750,000 people voted in the challenge - 76% of them for Branston Beans - and the campaign generated massive PR coverage, including a five-minute feature on Channel 4's Richard & Judy. The day after the show aired, sales of Branston Beans increased by 153% in Tesco and 118% in Asda stores.
For an agency that has too long been the bridesmaid and never the bride, if DLKW continues in this vein, there is no reason why it should not make a serious challenge for Creative Agency of the Year in 2007.