Five agencies make the MAA UK Agency of the Year shortlist

Five isn’t so short but any number of agencies could put their hand up to be UK Agency of the Year, unlike the last two years dominated on both the creative and new business front by Uncommon Creative Studio.

The five we’ve chosen this year are adam&eveDDB, Mother, New Commercial Arts, VCCP and Saatchi & Saatchi, a reflection, to a degree, of the way the creative agency market seems to be changing.

New Commercial Arts, for example, is as big in customer experience as it is in advertising, signing up a number of important clients in CX including Nando’s (it does the advertising too) and car firm PSA, where it doesn’t and isn’t very likely to as PSA is a trophy French ad account. The agency also launched Paramount+ and hoovered up customers for Moneysupermarket.

Adam&eveDDB, twice a winner of this particular gong, also significantly boosted its CX offer, recognition that advertising doesn’t operate in a vacuum and that if the customer experience sucks, advertising is wasted. Something its former client Virgin Media (now with VCCP) might bear in mind although there are some signs it’s belatedly trying to improve. CX also offers a less fickle revenue stream than ads, especially these days when budgets seems permanently under pressure.

At the same time agencies need to refresh the message that advertising works and big agencies with big skills and lots of experience still deserve a seat, if not at that mythical top table, somewhere near it.

Adam&eveDDB, Mother, VCCP and Saatchi & Saatchi, which seems to have become a real partner for the likes of BT (below) EE and Direct Line, have all reached this status. NCA is closing in on it with an enviable client list after just over two years in business.

A big part of all this is creative work and here’s a poser. UK creativity isn’t in the best shape. This may be through lack of opportunity as clients have continued to pour money into so-called performance marketing (digital essentially) but no-one has matched the previous dazzle of Uncommon although A&E stormed into December for John Lewis, National Lottery and CALM.

Uncommon still produced the stand-out (and uncommonly quirky) campaign of the year for British Airways, now no longer the country’s favourite airline let alone the world’s.

Creatively Lucky Generals, AMV BBDO, Droga5, Neverland and Pablo all had their moments and most of them could have made this list, as could MullenLowe which is having a strong new business year.

Mother excelled for KFC and IKEA (reviewing creative – the sensible choice would be to stay put.) It also came close to winning British Gas from The&Partnership in an interminable pitch which grew harder as the energy picture darkened. VCCP’s Cadbury account shows the agency at its best, all manner of timely communications with some down to earth, very British advertising that might almost remind you of the late and great Alan Parker.

So that’s our shortlist. The winner next week.

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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.

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