How to become UK Agency of the Year in 2020

Campaign has announced its list for UK agency of the year in 2019, to be announced in March. It’s AMV BBDO, adam&eveDDB (our choice back in December 2019), Lucky Generals, McCann, Mother, The&Partnership, Uncommon and VCCP. T&P was our runner-up with Uncommon also meriting a mention.

Nothing much to argue with on Campaign’s list although Droga5 will be pee’d off not to make quite a long one.

So what do these agencies and others need to do to be top dog in 2020?

The criteria for such awards are usually a combination of business success and creativity although even that may change in the future as it’s becoming harder to differentiate what creative agencies do these days. Many (like the WPP stable including T&P) say they’re about creativity and technology. The trouble is, how do you know which is better at technology? And are any of them really that good at it?

In a spirit of generosity here are our tips.

AMV BBDO. Still, probably, the UK’s biggest by billings having replaced Sainsbury’s with Asda although not by income (McCann and A&E.) 2019 going into 2020 was pretty patchy for AMV, lots of awards for Libresse but it seems to have lost BT to Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi & Saatchi and there’s a new management trying to make its way. Consolidation may be its most important task in 2020.

Adam&eveDDB. More of the same please (it’s been our Agency of the Year three times) but that won’t be easy in 2020 (not that it was in 2019 when it waved goodbye to last two founders David Golding and James Murphy). But it’s won lots of business, the creative work is generally good to better although this year it may not have a John Lewis extravaganza to look forward to as JL tries to sort out the mess it’s in.

Lucky Generals. Rapidly becoming a new version of AMV, sure touch with tricky clients. Currently pitching against VCCP, Cadbury’s main agency, for Green & Black’s. if it wins that would be the early front runner in 2020.

McCann. Pretty well the archetypal big network agency, consistently good in the UK as well as the US. Too easy to underestimate maybe but that should change.

Mother. Our choice as UK Agency of The Year in 2018 and Network of the Year last year. Arguably more formidable than ever and if it’s really the case that some mega-clients are keen to reset their marketing with more creativity could win one or more big ones this year.

The&Partnership. Came close for us in 2019, winning NatWest from M&C Saatchi and hanging on to Centrica against a spirited effort from Publicis. Seems to have bedded Toyota Europe in well. Heavily into data/technology (aren’t we all darlings?) but could do with one or two creative standouts with a more human touch.

Uncommon. The bolters in 2019 after what had appeared a sticky start. May well win Campaign’s prize. Now Nils Leonard and co. need to show they can work their magic on big, boring accounts B&Q and Dreams.

VCCP. Tricky one this, undoubtedly a class act but they don’t communicate with us at all so we can only observe from a distance. From a distance, may be a bridesmaid again.

Others to note.

BBH. Still formidable when it’s on song. Has kept Audi, bit too keen on betting accounts for our taste.

Droga5. Tailed off rather towards the end of 2019, upstaged by Uncommon and, maybe, unsettled by the sale to Accenture.

Wieden+Kennedy. Quiet year in 2019, should bounce back in 2020 with Facebook, among others, to grapple with. May be perturbed by management changes at Sainsbury’s.

MullenLowe. Consistently competent, reflecting its clients to an extent – NHS, Department of Education. Needs a stand-out creative opportunity.

Saatchi & Saatchi. A bit like McCann, easy to underestimate – maybe too many of us bear the scars of too many Kevin Bacon EE ads. But keeping Publicis Groupe’s flag flying.

Note to others

Even in these techno days one really knockout campaign can do it.

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About Stephen Foster

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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.