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Once considered little more than an excuse for corporate hospitality, sport has emerged as an increasingly sophisticated marketing vehicle in recent years. Accordingly, it should come as little surprise to observe the evolution of M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment, an agency that has always appeared to be ahead of the game. Now as comfortable designing ads as handling traditional media relations, M&C Saatchi S&E has broadened its offer considerably across media, digital and live events, all of which revolves around its ability to develop compelling editorially-led ideas.
The numbers demonstrate that the agency's global ambitions are increasingly credible. It employs 85 people worldwide, generating £7m in fee income, up from £4.8m in 2013. Profits, notably, improved by 45% to £1.45m, representing a record year for the company. The agency employs 57 people in London, with much of the growth being led by an entertainment offering that now accounts for more than 25% of revenues.
In 2014, there was major new business for Heineken and Coca-Cola's Rugby World Cup sponsorships; Ballantine’s Golf Club; Sky Bet Transfer Fund; Adidas Women’s Training; Reebok; Havana Club; The Jameson Works; and the experiential work for This Girl Can for Sport England.
Always a strong creative firm, M&C Saatchi S&E has always based its thinking on the premise that "simple ideas enter the brain quicker and stay there longer," as CEO Steve Martin puts it. To deliver on that vision, the agency upped its investment in analytics in 2014, in a bid to marry "artists with science". That translated into some compelling work, based on a "three box" campaign methodology that fuses data and behavioural science with creative planning, direction, content and digital innovation across a broad range of channels, bolstered by a solid in-house studio capability.
Campaign highlights included developing the concept and campaign for the Sky Bet Transfer Fund, from which the firm generated 68k new customers; the O2 'Wear the Rose' initiative that involved pioneering use of Oculus Rift to bring the England Rugby team's training sessions to life; and a notable video miniseries for Ballantine's Golf Club.— AS
Cohn & Wolfe (WPP)
While Cohn & Wolfe’s UK comeback (13% growth last year, the fourth consecutive year of double-digit growth) has been fueled by diverse practices—its global corporate practice is now headquartered in EMEA and healthcare and technology are both improving— but the firm’s return to form in the consumer space is particularly impressive. Globally, the firm has developed a suite of products—around digital intelligence, mobile engagement, and integrating paid and owned media alongside earned—driving both new business and strong work.
Under the leadership of UK and EMEA managing director Rebecca Grant, the firm has added consumer talent including UK director Sarah Jane Rumford from Blue Rubicon. The practice works with clients including Colgate, Danone, Drinkaware, Heinz, International Hotels Group, Lloyds Bank, Microsoft, Palmolive, Pfizer and Twinings, and has been picking up awards for its creative work: the Mission 31 campaigns for Microsoft, which included real-time internet access to an undersea mission undertaken by the grandson of Jacques Cousteau and the launch of new color contact lenses for Alcon (illustrating the synergies between the consumer group and the tech and healthcare units), as well as an international effort to re-energize the loyalty programme at IHG, a World Cup trophy tour underwritten by Coca-Cola, and the introduction of a new Heinz ketchup with 50% less sugar.
Hope & Glory (Independent)
In just three short years, Hope & Glory has established itself as the latest London shop to dominate the city's fiercely competitive consumer PR market. That it has done so is largely down to the leadership duo of Jo Carr and James Gordon-Macintosh, a pair that had already served notice of their talents at a prior posting with Seventy Seven PR.
In 2014, Hope & Glory kept up its remarkable pace of growth, growing 65% to £2.7m in fee income, led by such new clients as Barclays and Barclaycard, Virgin Trains, Disney, Turner Broadcasting and Airbnb. The firm added press office duties to its existing Sony consumer electronics brief, and also consolidated its hold on Ikea's UK PR work. If that alone doesn't sound like a impressive client roster, then consider this — Hope & Glory's also works for The Royal Mint, O2, HTC, Virgin Active and the Meantime Brewing Company.
Growth like that can throw even the best managed firm off course, but Hope & Glory appears to be handling its meteoric rise pretty well. Now numbering 37 people, the agency has only lost two full-time staf members since it launched, and Car and Gordon-Macintosh oversee a leadership team that also includes partners Adrian Chitty and Gavin Lewis.
Unlike some of its bigger rivals, meanwhile, Hope & Glory demonstrates little disdain for press office work, believing that it helps fuel great campaigns. And in this, there seems little point arguing, because the firm's work remains among the best in the market, showcased by award-winning campaigns for the Royal Mint, HTC, Virgin Holidays, Ikea and O2. — AS
Jung Relations (Sweden/Independent)
Following Weber Shandwick’s acquisition of Prime, Jung Relations is now the largest independent marketing communications firm in Sweden, having parlayed a reputation for mold-breaking creativity and constant innovation—including formidable digital capabilities and a small but growing corporate communications practice—into numerous awards.
Led by CEO and co-founder Claes Bodén and creative director Jonas Sevenius, the firm expanded its leadership team last year with the addition of creative leader Ebba Hultengren from Prime and senior advisor Erica Wigge from Nordiska Kompaniet, Sweden's leading department store. Jung works with clients including Absolut Vodka, Volvo Cars, Blocket, adidas, P&G, Svenska Spel, Sony, ICA. Recent additions: Electrolux, Lernia, Facebook, American Express, GB Glace, Nespresso, and Arla, with highlights last year including the Andy Warhol Art Exchange (inviting consumers to submit a work of digital art and get one in exchange) for Absolut and The Stutterheim Puzzle (creating a luxurious car cover and a quirky photo puzzle to allow media and online users to reveal the new Volvo before anyone else) for Volvo Cars.— PH
W Communications (Independent)
Formed six years ago by former Freuds executive Warren Johnson, W is one of the best of the UK's new wave of consumer PR firms. While many of its ilk have typically grown by showcasing a flair for creativity, W's emergence in recent years has been underpinned as much by business savvy as anything else. In six years it has already reached £3.375m in fee income, reflecting y-o-y growth of 30%, and the firm now employs more than 50 people in London.
After spending much of its early years handling work for media and retail brands, W has expanded its client roster into the more lucrative FMCG and consumer electronics' sectors. There was new business in 2014 from Unilever's Marmite; Campari and Aperol; YSL Cosmetics; Addison Lee; Levi's; and Koppaberg Cider, adding to a client roster that already includes Hendrick's Gin, Huawei, Independent & Evening Standard, Hearst Magazines UK and W Hotels.
2014 was probably also the year when W's creative reputation caught up to its business image. The firm won 10 awards during the year, including SABRE honours for its Hendricks, W London and Sailor Jerry campaigns. There was also eye-catching work for Marmite and Pokerstars.
The firm's growth has meant that Johnson can assemble a talented leadership team, which now includes MD Richard Tompkins; strategy head Adam Leigh; and, director Holly Maguire. With its sights now set on global expansion, it would take a brave person to bet against W's flair for making money.— AS
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