Direct Agency of the Year: EHS 4D

Jaguar ad by Direct Agency of the Year EHS 4D
Jaguar ad by Direct Agency of the Year EHS 4D

The agency has rebranded, restructured and reinvigorated itself over the past year, developing a strong focus on digital and bringing in a raft of work from clients old and new.

A bold shake-up at EHS 4D Group aimed at capitalising on changes to the direct marketing industry was the decisive factor in its capture of Marketing's Direct Agency of the Year prize.

The winner tops an impressive pile. Judges for this category were quick to acknowledge the high-level of entries from all those shortlisted. 'No one is standing still and progress is being made across a number of fronts,' was the judges' glowing verdict.

EHS 4D rebranded from EHS Brann to combine the heritage of its business with Euro RSCG 4D, represent its close ties with the parent group and create stronger links with its worldwide network. The changes were not merely cosmetic, however. Long-serving chief executive Matt Atkinson drove through a restructure that involved the appointment of new managing directors to its four core business units, which, the judges noted, 'clearly galvanised the agency'.

EHS 4D's revenue growth forecast is up by more than 10%, against a market average of 2.9%. Digital has been placed at the heart of the agency, with revenues in this area up by more than 30%. Direct revenue has also increased by 3.9% and data by 2.8%.

Over the past year, clients have streamed in, adding an incremental £3m of annualised new business. The agency won Nestle's direct marketing business, after going head-to-head with Partners Andrews Aldridge, and continued to bag high-profile briefs, including work from Comparethemarket.com and the BBC, for which EHS 4D handles its eCRM. The agency also won work from Yahoo!, Unilever and TUI. By March it had already hit its new business target for the calendar year.

EHS 4D's year was not just about a stellar new business performance, however. The agency prides itself on nurturing its relationships with clients - an approach that has paid off handsomely. In September, it was reappointed to the Barclays Retail direct marketing account; EHS has also achieved organic growth through existing clients including Tesco, Diageo and Jaguar.

In the agency's submission, Atkinson highlighted the group's strategy of integrating data, direct and digital expertise, coupled with a rejuvenated team, as the reason why EHS 4D's offering is more relevant than ever. The judges clearly agreed with him.

Focus On - Air Wick

The Fresher Homes Club created by EHS 4D, is a relationship and reward programme aimed at 'houseproud women'. It now has about 330,000 'aircare' users, recruited from a series of channels.

Once signed up, the club members receive bimonthly emails including promotions, money-off offers, quizzes, competitions and added-value tips on how to make their home fresher.

As the programme has developed, data has been used in sophisticated ways to create email variants on the basis of recipients' previous interactions and responses, product format preference and levels of use. Over the past 12 months the club has generated an uplift of 56% in sales when compared with an equivalent control group.

Best of the rest

According to the judges, LIDA missed out on the top spot by a whisker after another strong year. It won one of the biggest direct marketing pitches of the year - IKEA - in July, as well as work for Netjets, the COI and Network Rail. Work for Ikea is under way and the agency has moved the retailer's business from a productto a customer-driven programme, a change that has already led to an 18% improvement in campaign effectiveness. Lida has also produced great creative work for clients including Boots and Mini. One of the biggest changes at LIDA has been the development of a central strategy unit by parent group M&C Saatchi. This has brought all its planners together, centralising data, digital, branding and advertising teams.

OgilvyOne's year was one of solid growth. The agency picked up clients including Bupa, InterContinental Hotels Group and Action Aid, resulting in new business billings exceeding £27m. Despite the recession, the agency also posted a major rise in billings due to reappointments such as BT. In addition, the agency bagged a Silver Lion award at Cannes for its 'Seer Wimbledon' work for IBM.

Last year's winner, Rapp, while not racking up the extraordinary growth that led it to win the coveted title last year, has still performed creditably. This year it won the direct business for Virgin Media, for which it pitched with DDB. With about half of its revenue now derived from digital business, it is no surprise that the agency was also handed Bacardi's entire UK digital account this year. Other wins over the past 12 months include Ocean Spray, Guide Dogs for the Blind and the Open University. As a result of all this additional work, the agency's income levels rose from £24m to £33.3m.

Cossette-owned Elvis maintained last year's success, winning new business from Red Bull, WKD and Sailor Jerry that accounted for £3m of its annual income. With big clients including Virgin Holidays and Honda, Elvis' approach of mapping out the customer journey and interrogating the points of interaction is paying dividends. It strengthened its management team by hiring David Bainbridge as joint chief executive and Carl Ratcliff as executive planning director from MCBD, ahead of its sister agency's integration with Dare.

Also shortlisted were Archibald Ingall Stretton, Stephens Francis Whitson and Wunderman.

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