School Reports 2016: FCB Inferno

Sport England
Sport England

As last year's school report write-up showed, FCB Inferno's first year post-merger was an unmitigated success. Its 2015 was more nuanced than that.

The agency reached a new high with "this girl can" for Sport England – a rallying cry for women to take up sports and one of the best ads of the year. It justly picked up a Glass Lion at Cannes.

The "change please" idea for The Big Issue – setting up coffee vans staffed by the homeless – was another winner and showed FCB Inferno can succeed outside of traditional advertising confines.

But the agency could not keep its confident new-business streak going in 2015. Winning government pitches was FCB Inferno’s bread and butter in 2014 but the agency got knocked out of both the UK Trade & Investment and Transport for London pitches last year.

Similarly, it failed to land any of the big retail accounts going begging. Part of the problem may have been the agency spreading itself across too many pitches. That said, there were some wins, including a literacy brief for the publisher Pearson and a new global brief from its existing client BMW.

Bringing in Elspeth Lynn, the former M&C Saatchi executive creative director, as the group creative director was a smart move. She’s a quality creative and this role will be all about the work. FCB Inferno also hired Leo Burnett’s global chief strategist, Giles Hedger, which should help to wow a few clients.

There was lots to be pleased with in 2015 but the legacy Inferno partners will be keen to snag either a big retail account or a financial client in 2016 as they have an eye on the 2018 earn-out.

How the agency rates itself: 8

"The global response to "this girl can" has been humbling, and the engagement and effectiveness results were gratifying. BMW and Oreo campaigns were among other creative high points to receive recognition at Cannes. Investment in social and digital talent was rewarded with a number of pure-play wins. Our passion for behaviour change and social change has been recognised with wins for Pearson and The Big Issue."

FCB Inferno
Type of agency Advertising
Company ownership Interpublic
Nielsen billings 2015 £86m
Nielsen billings 2014 £69m
Declared income £19.1m (2014)
Total accounts at year end 27
Accounts won 6 (biggest: Pearson)
Accounts lost 0
Number of staff 178 (-5%)
Women in senior management 30%
BAME staff in senior management 0%
Key personnel Frazer Gibney, founder and chief executive
Tim Doust, founding partner
Al Young, chief creative officer
Owen Lee, chief creative officer
Giles Hedger, chief strategy officer

Score key: 9 Outstanding  8 Excellent  7 Good  6 Satisfactory  5 Adequate  4 Below average  3 Poor  2 A year to forget  1 Survival in question

Footnote: *indicates where agencies claim the corporate governance constraints of the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation.

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