Welcome to the most uncomfortable day of my year

Do look at the School Reports, but please then get straight back to the fight.

Ah, School Reports. Which chief executive will shout at me this year, whisper menacing threats of bodily harm, cry, send flowers, declare love?

I’ve had all of that and more as agencies absorb our annual review of their performance. The day we publish our School Reports is always the most uncomfortable day of my year.

We take our responsibilities here very seriously. I’ve known hiring and firing decisions to be based in part on our assessments and some agencies now have their Campaign School Report score enshrined in their KPIs and bonus schemes.

Analysts use this report to help inform investment decisions, marketers refer to it for agency selection, talent consults it for career moves. And our industry has a wickedly ravenous appetite for rankings and league tables.

Except for the time we managed two typos in the name Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe, we generally get it right and nail the truth about the most interesting and important agencies in our industry. We try hard to consider how well companies have played their hand, scoring them not against their peers but on what could have been expected of them given where they started the year.

Some CEOs (sometimes fairly, sometimes with an embarrassing lack of self-awareness) pass the buck: goddamn that network boss or parent company chief that forced their UK agency into bat without a bat. "At least when independent agencies have a shit year they know it’s pretty much their own shit," one CEO moaned last year. "My shit is generously donated by XXXXX in New York."

But most discomforting is that phone call from an agency leader that registers a sad acceptance that we’ve got it right, that they’ve had a tough time and that the truth is a difficult place to be. Of course, the best of them then say "fuck it" and get straight back into the mud to carry on the fight.

Whether you had a good year or a challenging one, once you’ve called me to shout, whisper menacing threats of bodily harm, cry, send flowers, declare love, I hope you all get straight back in the mud and enjoy the fight.

See School Reports 2019

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