Agency of the Year: Design Agency of the Year - Wolff Olins

Wolff Olins has had a storming year, with high-profile new business and incremental wins boosting its reputation.

When Sony Ericsson appointed Wolff Olins in April to develop a brand strategy, few people anticipated that the tremors would be felt by creative and branding agencies far and wide. Following the win, Bartle Bogle Hegarty resigned the brand's ad business and Saatchi & Saatchi was handed the £50m global creative account in September.

It is not just for services to the profile of branding consultancies that Wolff Olins has been named Marketing's Design Agency of the Year. The Omnicom Group shop also racked up an impressive 20% year-on-year increase in revenue and was ranked in joint-first place in the Marketing Design Leagues.

As well as an exemplary financial performance, Wolff Olins scooped some of the year's most coveted accounts - not least the brief to create branding for the London 2012 Olympics. It is believed to have beaten four other contenders in a three-month battle for the multimillion-pound business. Due to be unveiled next year, the branding, which will appear at all Olympic venues, will be used to attract sponsors and appear in global promotional activity.

In another coup, the agency was appointed by London Unlimited to create a brand to position the city as the best in the world in which to invest, study and do business.

The agency's pitch-to-win conversion rate this year was a stellar 70%. But it has not just been chasing lucrative, high-profile accounts. It has also proved its effectiveness in the not-for-profit and B2B sectors.

One client, Macmillan Cancer Relief, sought a new brand to better reflect the help it offers people living with cancer, including families and carers. Wolff Olins took up the challenge and in April the rebranded Macmillan Cancer Support was unveiled. The work has proved a resounding success; the charity has seen a 67% increase in visitors to its information units and the work has been credited with yielding a 50% increase in uptake of leaflets from GP surgeries in the past six months.

Wolff Olins also created the brand for Product (RED), launched by U2 singer Bono to raise awareness and funds for Aids victims in Africa. Its flexible branding can be seen on products from firms including American Express, Motorola, Gap, Converse and Emporio Armani. Rolling out in the UK in February, the brand has proved a huge success. By September, profits of more than $10m (£5.3m) had been given to The Global Fund - double the amount it had received in the previous four years.

As well as raising funds, Product (RED) has helped improve perceptions of participating brands: in a poll of more than 1300 UK consumers by Fraser Consultancy, 30% said their opinion of Emporio Armani, Gap and Nike-owned Converse had improved just months after they had launched RED-branded products.

The agency also proved itself a worthy Agency of the Year by crossing seamlessly into the B2B sector. For recruitment firm Manpower, it undertook a £27m global overhaul, streamlining the company's offering from more than 200 brands to five.

Incremental wins from Unilever, Royal Mail and PricewaterhouseCoopers testify to Wolff Olins' determination not to neglect existing clients while chasing high-profile accounts. It is handling an NPD project for Unilever that will come to fruition next year.

But the agency's standout win of the year remains Sony Ericsson. Saatchi & Saatchi has been implementing its strategy, which is based on an adaptation of the 'I (Love) New York' logo, with the heart replaced by the Sony Ericsson logo and followed by words including 'music' and 'photography'.

Previous winners
2005 Landor
2004 Williams Murray Hamm
2003 Checkland Kindleysides
2002 Williams Murray Hamm

BEST OF THE REST

With double-digit rises in turnover, high pitch-conversion rates and designs that have yielded good returns for brand owners, it has been a hard-fought battle to be named Design Agency of the Year.

Last year's winner, Landor, put in another great performance that made it a strong contender to retain its title. The WPP agency, which has been celebrating its 65th anniversary, won 72% of its pitches this year. It added Coors, Kraft Foods and Akzo Nobel to an enviable client list that includes BP, PepsiCo and Diageo.

Procter & Gamble enlisted the agency's help again following last year's successful redesign of Ariel. In an uncharacteristic strategy for the sector, packs for its 'Champ Whites' and 'Turn to 30' activity were built around the promotions, rather than them being conveyed via a flash added to the standard pack design. This new approach helped Ariel overtake category leader Persil in market share.

Landor's relaunch of PJ Smoothies in January also contributed to sparkling results for brand owner PepsiCo. Year-on-year volume sales growth of 236% from January to May came during a period with no ad support.

The fragile high street has shown tentative signs of a recovery this year, much to the benefit of retail design specialists such as Checkland Kindleysides. Its turnover is up 12% on last year and it has secured new business from Virgin Megastores and Sony Ericsson, as well as incremental business from Asda and Henri Lloyd. New merchandising in Boots for cosmetics brand Ruby & Millie has contributed to double-digit sales increases.

The agency was also briefed to design a Levi's Revolution concept store to showcase the brand in a premium environment. In refurbished stores, sales of jeans rose by an impressive 35% year on year and footfall was up 7%. As testament to its efficacy, the design is now rolling out across the rest of the UK.

This year also saw the agency begin a new chapter: David Checkland's retirement in April, after 27 years co-piloting the agency, leaves Jeff Kindleysides as sole owner.

Pearlfisher put in another stellar performance, with 28 new business wins and a 13% increase in revenue for the year. It was awarded the coveted brief to design Adez, Unilever's first major food and drink brand launch in 12 years. King of Shaves, Innocent, Fortnum & Mason and Green & Black's were among the other existing clients that came back for more.

For long-standing client Waitrose, Pearlfisher designed apothecary-style packaging for male grooming range Skintools, as well as the identity for its flower offering, Blossom & Bloom. The latter was awarded florist retailer of the year at the 2006 Retail Industry Awards. Elsewhere, the agency's work on packaging and gifting for The White Company contributed to a 90% increase in sales.

Pearlfisher has continued to mix its work for big-name clients with innovative design for fledgling brands including Dr Stuart's, a herbal tea brand that is securing more listings in supermarkets after revamping through the agency, and Little Dish, a range of healthy ready meals for children.

It is fitting that a branding agency that itself underwent a rebrand this year has made it into the list of high achievers. BR&Me, formerly Brewer Riddiford, has increased its turnover by 15% and picked up business from Sainsbury's, Scottish & Newcastle, Birds Eye and Capri Sun.

In late 2005, the agency was appointed to redesign Foster's multipacks to improve the lager brand's standout. The redesign has been credited with increasing volume share from 23.7% to 29% for the year to 20 May, according to Nielsen Scantrack. The uplift is all the more significant since the multipack redesign was the only significant change in marketing activity during this period.

Fitch has ticked all the boxes in terms of design effectiveness. Tesco briefed the WPP agency to revamp its Kensington store for the first time since it opened. The results speak for themselves: its newly designed fish counter saw sales treble year on year, making it Tesco's best-performing counter, while sales doubled in its extended and relocated Cookshop.

The agency has also been credited with helping boost sales across all product areas in Vodafone's Cheltenham store. As a result, its store design will be rolled out across the entire Vodafone retail estate in 2007.

Fitch also won new business from 16 clients this year, including Marks & Spencer, and in October it overhauled the corporate identity for motorway services operator Welcome Break.

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