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The Egotist Returns Once Again, This Time from London

Damn, has it really been close to a year since we received our last Egotist beat report? No worries, time flies, and for the first time, the Egotist network chimes in from London with an extensive look (with videos galore!) at the goings-on across the pond. Without further ado, here you go.

London is busy. Clients are spending. There are no mass redundancies.  Yet there is an air of caution hanging over the capital. With talk of a triple dip recession, the UK’s economy downgraded from its triple-A status and slow to no growth, clients want to be sure they’ll get a return on their marketing investment. In recent months, we’ve seen several big name brands go to the wall – retail especially. Blockbuster, Comet, HMV, Jessops – all staples of Britain’s high streets, now going or gone.

Long-terms plans go out the window and survival is the name of the game. And that makes for safe work. The most adventurous campaigns are the ones established before this cloud drifted over us.

So that’s the background. Who’s doing what?

After a big setback losing Nokia, Wieden & Kennedy bounced back when Tesco – the UK’s largest supermarket – awarded them their business last year.

W&K’s Christmas campaign for Tesco (above)

For quality and quantity you have to look to AMV BBDO. If you examine the awards in the UK and internationally, AMV are leading the charge with plenty of daylight between them and second place. They were the only UK agency in last year’s global creative awards top ten.

That has to come down to the steady succession of ECD’s from its legendary founder David Abbott, through Peter Souter (now re-emerged at TBWA) and their current creative boss, Paul Brazier. Their growth in becoming the UK’s biggest agency doesn’t seem to have affected their quality control and ability to retain clients.

It’s been another strong year for them and their client Guinness, especially when they embarked upon a new creative strategy.

AMV BBDO’s “Cloud” for Guinness

What seems like the healthiest sector in advertising right now is the business of price comparison websites. One thing that defined them all was how awful they used to be, relying on annoying jingles and blunt repetition beyond any creative merit. Then VCCP reinvented the category with their pub-lunchtime inspired “Compare the Meerkat” campaign for CompareTheMarket.com.

The latest in VCCP’s “Compare The Meerkat” campaign

This not only meant that customers were literally basing their car insurance choices on whether they could get a furry meerkat with their policy, but it prompted their rivals to up their ad game.

Mother won the MoneySupermarket.com account and relaunched them with a Swingers-inspired “You’re So MoneySupermarket” campaign that continues to delight with overblown slices of hyperbole, featuring everyman blokes with names like Brian and Colin doing epic stuff like blagging their way onto the Space Shuttle.

Mother London’s work for MoneySupermaket.com

Mother has the energy and freshness of a start-up combined with the reel and billings of an established heavyweight agency. There are rumblings of a couple of recent account losses (most unlike them) but they have picked up leading nation bike and auto parts retailer, Halfords, which brings us to DLKW Lowe – the previous incumbent.

Part of the Lowe global network, DLKW Lowe underwent a merger two years ago and bumped along the bottom for a while as the two very different cultures tried to find a way of melding together.

Having undergone a root and branch reset of the creative department, the agency is enjoying a renaissance, ironically doing some of its best work for Halfords before a change of Marketing Director brought about an account review. Digitally, they’re starting to get their act together, winning the first ever gold lion for mobile at Cannes last year.

DLKW Lowe’s “The Trip” for Halfords

Despite their upward trajectory, pitch wins have been hard to come by. Then seemingly out of nowhere, just as we were all closing for Christmas, they managed to steal the remainder of the global Persil/Omo business from BBH – a creative and financial coup. Rarely does BBH lose in a fair fight.

After all these years, BBH are still the agency to beat. Their consistency is remarkable – even if they no longer conjure up cultural landmarks like they did in the 80′s for Levi’s.

Axe Apollo’s “Fireman”

Digitally, after a tentative start a few years back, they’re really hitting their stride with BBH Labs – though their New York office stole all the headlines with their Homeless Hotspots at SXSW (below).

DIGITAL LONDON

There’s been a power shift over the past few years. Agencies like Glue and Dare used to hog all the ‘agency of the year’ awards but both have refocused towards an integrated offering, losing their cutting edge and key personnel along the way. Glue has now lost all its founders and Dare was merged with Cossette’s above-the-line stablemate MCBD. Mergers are never pretty and normally agencies can wash their dirty linen in private. But a succession of account losses and senior departures couldn’t disguise the fact that clients’ weren’t buying the new integrated offering. Now the entire MCBD top brass have fallen away, three of them recently reforming to announce their imminent start-up. More of that later!

Many of the Dare digirati jumped ship to Work Club and they have been creating cutting edge campaigns for forward-looking clients like Ballantines, Sharp and McLaren Formula One under the creative directorship of Andy Sandoz. UK industry magazine Campaign named them ‘Digital Agency Of The Year’ for 2012 and deservedly so for their blend of brave creative thinking and technical innovation.

Work Club’s “T-Shirt OS” for Ballantine’s

AKQA is always there or thereabouts – the BBH of the digital landscape. Good luck to you if you find yourself nominated in the same category as their Nike campaigns. But they’re not a one-account agency by any means.

Plus there was the small matter of them selling to Martin Sorrell‘s WPP Group for a cool £343 million.

So who are the new shops to look out for?

Inevitably, these are the agencies where big names fell out of love with big agency life and struck out on their own.

101

101’s top brass

101 is a couple of years old, formed out of Fallon London and their Cadbury client. They’ve just parted company with their founding client (high street fashion brand French Connection) which is always a wrench, but they’d already done some nice work for them as well as Avios, the new name for Air Miles.

101’s TV work for Avios

Joint London

(from l-r, Damon Collins, Richard Exon, Lori Meekin, Nik Upton)

Creative award-magnet Damon Collins has an impressive track record at big network agencies – latterly RKCR Y&R – and will be looking show us what he can do on his own terms. And Joint has started positively with a brave activation idea for Air New Zealand. They produced Blind Gate (punning on Blind Date) the world’s first live online dating game show. Filmed at Heathrow on Valentines Day, the winning couples went straight to the Air New Zealand gate and promptly flew to LA, all expenses paid.

Joint London’s “Blind Gate” for Air New Zealand

The Dare breakaway led by Danny Brooke-Taylor, Helen Calcraft and Andy Nairn was rumbled before they’d even thought of a name for their new shop. Danny Brooke-Taylor is charismatic, well-connected and he’s overseen some impressive work, before and after the merger.

Helen Calcraft is a great motivator and undoubtedly has a talent for empire-building. Before MCBD sold to Cossette, the agency was a much-admired independent – which is why Cossette came a-calling.

(l-r, Andy Nairn, Helen Calcraft and Danny Brooke-Taylor)

Andy Nairn is in his pomp too. A talented planner, his thinking is fêted around London – though one creative did wonder if his impressive array of planning awards was down to his talent for retro-fitting the strategy from the creative work.

If they can snare a founding client with money and ambition, who knows what could happen.

Holmes Hobbs Marcantonio

(l-r, Marcantonio, Hobbs and Holmes)

Perhaps the most surprising new agency isn’t from a gang of young upstarts but from three industry hall-of-famers with a combined age of 182.

Adrian Holmes, Steve Hobbs and Alfredo Marcantonio have launched HHM to bring some good old fashioned craft back to the industry. Holmes says, “We’re very keen to bring back the written word. The ad industry seems to have convinced itself that writing isn’t required any more. We think that’s wrong.”

HHM’s TV ad for Prostate Cancer UK

The advertising equivalent of Clint Eastwood‘s Space Cowboys, the agency already has a tidy stable of clients with more on the way – maybe they’re onto something.

So there’s the answer to the question of what we’re all going to do when we retire from advertising: more advertising.

Stay on top of London’s latest ad news and inspiration at www.thelondonegotist.com

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