School Reports 2017: SapientRazorfish


Too early to score

How the agency rates itself: 8

As SapientNitro’s standing within Publicis Groupe continues to grow, so does Nigel Vaz’s fiefdom. Razorfish had been flagging for some years and Campaign revealed staff at the agency would be reporting to Vaz in April 2016. Publicis Groupe made it official in November when the two agencies merged globally to become SapientRazorfish and Vaz took the role of chief executive, EMEA and Asia-Pacific, at Publicis.Sapient. Given the infancy of the newly merged entity, we have decided not to give it a score.

It wasn’t until early 2017 that the full damage at Razorfish was revealed when Publicis Groupe wrote down the value of digital and consulting business Publicis.Sapient by €1.44bn in a shock move.

Cracks in the Razorfish UK business had been developing for some time and worsened after chief executive Chris Mellish left at the beginning of 2015. There was little noise from Razorfish in 2016 apart from a continuation of the "All things hair" work for Unilever and a spot for Audi’s self-driving car featuring a tyrannosaurus. The business lost 11 clients, with four transferring to other Razorfish offices and McDonald’s moving to Leo Burnett.

In contrast, SapientNitro has continued to excel in digital transformation. It picked up substantial data briefs from Unilever and was Campaign’s Digital Innovation Agency of the Year. Vaz has been busy, too, being deeply involved in Sapient Inside, a way of embedding digital specialists in sister ad agencies.

SapientNitro has struggled to develop its traditional creative side and perhaps the departure of executive creative director Mark Hunter, with Tesco Mobile and HTC, to The Community signals an end to that ambition. With Vaz in charge and the agency refocused, maybe incoming Publicis Groupe chief executive Arthur Sadoun will have one less thing to worry about. 

How the agency describes its year in a tweet

Culminating in the birth of SapientRazorfish, it was a great year for us. We’re sorry about all the other bad stuff that happened in 2016.

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

Start Your Free 30-Day Free Trial

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to, plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events.

Become a subscriber


Don’t miss your daily fix of breaking news, latest work, advice and commentary.

register free