Lord Bell’s Chime turns in more advertising good news

UK adland seems awash with money at the moment with Chime Communications, the advertising to PR empire ruled by Mrs Thatcher’s favourite adman Lord Bell, turning in half year profits of £12.3m up from £8.9m (itself a good performance in cash-strapped 2009). Chime owns ad agency VCCP of Meerkats fame and PR outfit Bell Pottinger among others.

His Lordship was rather uncharacteristically upbeat (in terms of his public utterances at least) boasting that Chime had out-performed its marcoms rivals (including 15 per cent shareholder WPP presumably) and was set to surge on after winning a record 658 pitches and £19.4m of new business in the first half of 2010, including commissions from Nintendo, Roche and Unilever.

By my calculations this is about four a day, assuming that Chime staff get the weekends off.

Not everything in the Chime garden is quite so rosy, the group owes about £30m in deferred payouts including some £11m imminently which it doesn’t have in balance sheet cash. So a share issue may be a possibility although the company does have enough borrowing capacity available.

It’s therefore important that the profits keep on flowing but, latterly anyway, Bell’s hunches have paid off handsomely, particularly the pricey acquisition of VCCP. VCCP seems to be demonstrating that there’s life beyond Comparethemarket’s furry animals by becoming an agency to reckon with.

It was recently appointed by News Corporation to try to popularise its paywall strategy, introduced across The Times and Sunday Times newspapers, via a social media campaign. If it can pull this one off it will be the advertising equivalent of walking on water.

Chime is still a minnow in the big wide world of marcoms companies, its profits are just a twentieth of those just announced by rival and shareholder WPP.

But Bell, now well into his sixties, is a man in a hurry and he may decide that it’s time for Chime to roll the dice again and become rather larger.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.