School Reports 2017: TBWA London


Score: 3 
Last year: 4

How the agency rates itself: 4

If this report had been written over the Christmas holidays, very little of the write-up would have survived today. After spending the last couple of months of 2016 plagued by rumours about a potential merger with Lucky Generals, TBWA\London’s future became clearer in January when Campaign revealed that global chief Troy Ruhanen’s plan was to keep the two shops separate.

The deal went through in February and the departure of TBWA\London chief executive Richard Stainer and chief strategy officer Amelia Torode quickly followed. The pair had failed to deliver a rejuvenated TBWA but the blame can’t fall solely on their shoulders. There was also a creative vacuum, with part-time UK chairman Peter Souter working largely on network business and former executive creative director Graeme Douglas on leave for much of the year.

The agency lost Aquafresh, its final GlaxoSmithKline client, following a global review. The business moved to Havas. There were other departures, but one can’t imagine the likes of Adlens and Mr Green brought in significant revenues. Wins, while relatively plentiful, were pretty uninspiring. New-business successes included low-cost mobile operator Lebara and facial-fillers manufacturer Nestlé Skin Health, as well as higher-status brands such as Starbucks, McLaren and Intel, following a global business-to-business pitch.

TBWA moved quickly to promote experienced executive Brian Swords to managing director following Stainer’s exit. The Lucky Generals founders will now help Ruhanen hire a new management team. Getting those hires right is going to be crucial to the survival of both agencies as separate brands. TBWA has shown with its strong Lidl work that it is able to deliver interesting ads for big spenders, but it will need to do that a lot more often to get back on track.

How the agency describes its year in a tweet

Smarter, faster, flatter, more networked. Phew. Big pitches. New wins. Some losses. New talent. New ways of working. #TheDisruptionCompany

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

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