Maisie McCabe
Mar 17, 2024

Leo Burnett and Rapp’s double-AOY wins should inspire, not frustrate

Both agencies' success demonstrates brighter days are possible for all shops.

Leo Burnett and Rapp’s double-AOY wins should inspire, not frustrate

Congratulations to all the businesses and people who won gongs at Campaign’s UK Agency of the Year Awards on Wednesday night.

Leo Burnett, an agency that got a four (below average) five years ago in its School Report, picked up Creative Agency of the Year for the second year in a row. In that 2019 write-up, which marked a decline from two consecutive years of fives (adequate), Campaign said the Publicis Groupe shop had “struggled to find its place in the world” and had “faced several false dawns”. Well, the sun has shined on the agency more reliably recently. 

Similarly, Rapp scored a four in 2018, for its work in 2017, amid a 24% staff decline. This week it won Customer Engagement Agency of the Year and Agency Leader of the Year (Customer Engagement) for 2023—a repeat of its haul in 2022 (although the leader this time was chief executive Gabrielle Ludzker rather than chairman Chris Freeland).

The UK Agency of the Year Awards replaced an editorial system. Before 2019, Campaign UK’s journalists used our knowledge and judgement to decide on the winners. Now, agencies enter themselves and senior marketers make the calls in a two-stage process.

People I respect and admire relatively often remind me how much they liked the previous way of doing things. But there were drawbacks, too, because it was based on what Campaign journalists already knew. Campaign's team still has the School Reports and the new-in-2023 Top Agencies list as places to cast its judgments.

The awards scheme allows anyone to compete. It can lead to companies Campaign has only recently started writing about taking home gold (see Born Social in Digital Innovation this year). Moreover, there is value in getting your work in front of the Agency of the Year judges. During the judging, numerous marketers said they would contact specific shops they were impressed with. One joked the process had been really helpful as they were about to hold a pitch in the category they were assessing.

Whichever way the agencies of the year are decided, there has always been an ebb and flow of the names within them. All the of the 2023 Agency of the Year winners—which also included Manning Gottlieb OMDHope & Glory and VCCP—have been through quieter periods. And likely had times when their leaders felt their achievements were undervalued. If their wins have come at the expense of your own, try to use that frustration as inspiration.

In a piece for Campaign after the 2022 win, Charlie Rudd, the group chief executive at Leo Burnett UK and Fallon, recommended agency leaders ignore the background noise (on AI, or whatever) and foster belief in their colleagues. The sun will rise again tomorrow (and there’ll be more winners next year).

Maisie McCabe is the UK editor of Campaign.

Campaign UK

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