Uber global task further evidence new NCA has hit on the right formula for the times

At some stage soon we’ll have the tricky task of choosing our agencies of the year from a (mostly) battered and (maybe) reduced field.

The criteria usually are business performance and creative work, which in themselves are getting harder to identify as more and more agencies busy themselves in the business transformation game for clients – and how on earth do we judge that?

Can’t remember a time when a contender would be an agency that’s so far produced just one big campaign but this year we’ve got one – New Commercial Arts, the agency founded by adam&eve’s James Murphy and David Golding with Ian Heartfield from BBH and Rob Curran from Wunderman Thompson. Interesting in itself that customer experience whizz Curran features in the top line-up but the choice appears to be paying off.

NCA has just landed its fourth account, “global customer experience” projects for the mighty Uber to add to the UK Haliax account (won from A&E), Vodafone globally and the World Out of Home Organization for whom it produced what may be the biggest global Out of Home campaign #OurSecondChance, an inspired use of under-used billboards in the pandemic to show off the medium’s global capabilities.

We’re still waiting for the big idea for the Halifax as the UK rolls into another lockdown but the interim ‘It’s a people thing’ campaign, featuring Halifax staff, strikes the right note for troubled times.

Uber says: “Uber is a company that cares deeply about customer experience. We look at strategic and creative challenges through that lens, and so do New Commercial Arts. That’s why we’re excited to be working with the team at NCA.”

Customer experience is what we might call the Trojan horse that allowed NCA into Halifax too, originally appointed for such a task and rapidly ending up with the whole account. NCA’s mantra is: “Uniting brand and customer creativity, to make brands more desirable and easier to buy.”

There have been lots of start-ups this year, mostly by people tipped overboard from their previous employers in the pandemic (and good luck to them.)

But you have to go back to dim and distant 1982 and Bartle Bogle Hegarty to find a start-up that’s begun with such a stellar line-up of clients.

2020 has played into NCA’s hands: its holding company-owned competitors are struggling with their own survival in the pandemic and, pitching via Zoom, a still small agency – 30 people or so – can seem just as impressive as a Madison Avenue mansion.

But it’s the combo of creativity, strategy and customer experience that’s pulling big global clients in.

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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.