Paul Simons: my person, agency and ad of the year

Person of the year

David-Droga-headshot-cred-1.-Steve-Carty-for-Hermann-AudreyThis was the easiest for me as David Droga deserves to be voted most influential person on the planet at the moment for the performance of Droga5 in 2013. In just seven years in New York his agency has gone from zero to hero. I don’t know him personally but I have some insider knowledge. He is described as being very grounded, not self-important, passionate, and his personal vision is much bigger than the confines of conventional advertising. Someone said his vision is to be an influential creative force in the wider world, a bit like Pixar.

The deal with hollywood talent agency William Morris Endeavor completely wrong footed the whole advertising industry by thinking laterally and going for the holy grail of content. I look forward to 2014 to see how they manage the rapid growth and the retention of their creative integrity.

Agency of the year

I’ve agonised about this for little while trying to work out my criteria. I’ve plumped for 18 Feet & Rising in London. My reason is their dogged approach to what they do and progressing as a young, independent business in a very tough environment.

They have grown their billings by 30 per cent in the year, same growth in headcount and delivered a 20 per cent margin, only eight of the top 50 managed to hit this magic number, most were half that.

They have added new clients including Reebok, Nando’s, Kopparberg Cider and National Citizen Service.

Despite being a young and pretty cool ad agency with some cool clients they have demonstrated immense maturity with the campaign for Nationwide, one of my favourites since it launched. Not sure of the history but by luck or design they caught the wave perfectly with this campaign positioning Nationwide as a customer-focused business with the line ‘Nationwide, on your side’ with a delightful, different, warm and inviting series of TV ads.

Nationwide has posted doubled profits with the advertising singled out as a major contributor and it has been held up as a saviour for banks due to a ‘fabulous’ campaign. I’m sure they have been helped out with all of the bad press around our banks, not least of which has been the recent news about the Co-op Bank where customers have been leaving in their droves.

Also we should promote young indies as they provide the burr under the saddle of the middle-aged agencies.

Network of the year 

Not my expert topic but I have to go for BBH. Two of the founders remain at the helm in John Hegarty and Nigel Bogle, both knighted so a first in any agency in the world, and they continue to produce top class work around the world.

Only a few agencies manage to last the course with the founders running the ship, W&K being another great example, and delivering first class work for their clients.

Ad of the year

For readers outside the UK this will be meaningless but never mind as I can’t but not vote for John Lewis (a chain of department stores in the UK).

Their current TV work for Christmas is another belter following on from some blockbusters in the last three years. It has polarised opinion but I think it is another brilliant example of zigging when the world zags, and again it is being discussed all the time.

Our TV is awash with Christmas advertising and it is impossible to remember most of it because it is all similar with identical seasonal props. The Bear and the Hare contrasts with all the noise of competitive advertising with a paced, cute story, all in animation and not a jolly family around a table in sight. Further, unlike most retail advertising, it doesn’t have a list of products anywhere, they seem to accept the average punter knows they sell things we might want to buy.

The proof of the Christmas pudding is in their sales performance which is stunning. Throughout the miserable recession John Lewis has gone from strength to strength beating last year’s figures comfortably. Meanwhile big retail names have bitten the dust such as Blockbuster, Clintons, Blacks, Comet, etc.

Naturally much of their success has been down to their philosophy as a business, their great stores, brilliant after sales service, their promise of ‘never knowingly being undersold’. However their advertising must have played its role in presenting all of the foregoing in a distinctive and engaging way.

Oh and by the way, they have produced a seamless integrated campaign in-store, in press, on-line, and down to their carrier bags! Must have started developing all of this before the summer.

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