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MullenLowe London

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MullenLowe London adopted its current name at the beginning of 2016, following the merger the previous year of the global Lowe & Partners network with US agency Mullen. It is the most recent of a series of restructurings. Until that point, the London agency had spent five years as DLKW Lowe, the product of an earlier combination of highly regarded independent Delaney Lund Knox Warren with the local Lowe outpost. Once one of the UK's top agencies, Lowe London had wrestled with a string of disastrous account losses since the end of the 1990s. During that same period, independent agency DLKW expanded in exactly the opposite direction, finally becoming one the UK's top ten agencies for the first time in 2009. By then, though, DLKW's directors had agreed a deal to sell out to fast-expanding UK marketing group Creston. It was all change again in 2010, when Interpublic agreed to acquire DLKW from Creston and merge it with Lowe London. However, only a little of DLKW's magic rubbed off on Lowe, and after a brief honeymoon period, the new DLKW Lowe also steadily wilted. The 2016 rebranding was yet another attempt to curb that decline. So too was the acquisition and absorption of yet another London indie, 101, in 2017.

Clients

Click here for a MullenLowe London client listing from Adbrands Account Assignments

Competitors

see ranking of Leading UK Agencies

Brands & Activities

MullenLowe London is the latest reinvention of the old Lowe London agency. As with Lowe's presence in the US it has required a constant stream of new blood through the injection of other, arguably more nimble agencies. In the case of the London office, this has included DLKW in 2010, digital agency Profero in 2014, and 101 in 2017.

DLKW

The original merger of DLKW and Lowe was designed to reinvigorate the once-mighty Lowe brand after years of steady decline. Previously at one point a part-subsidiary of Lowe, DLKW had demonstrated remarkably strong and steady growth since 2000, all the more impressive in that it repeatedly beat off challenges from larger networks, including Lowe, from whom it nabbed almost all of the high-profile Vauxhall Motors account. Creative work was consistent and unflashy, and DLKW's account management skills were widely admired. Between 2000 and 2009 the agency didn't lose a single significant account, and was especially skilled at persuading existing clients to shift an ever larger chunk of business its way. It was the only UK agency to feature in Campaign magazine's Business Growth Top 20 every year since 2000. In 2005, DLKW's directors bought back a 26% shareholding then controlled by Interpublic, and sold the entire business to regional marketing services group Creston for a deal worth up to £33m. That deal also made DLKW's management team the biggest shareholders in Creston.

Lowe London

The growth of DLKW was counterpointed by equally steady decline at Lowe. London had been the original birthplace for the Lowe network, and at the end of the 1990s it was the country's second biggest agency, with billings of over £300m. However, internal battles between founder Frank Lowe and senior managers at Interpublic, combined with several ill-fated mergers elsewhere in the network, prompted a series of management problems and account losses at the London office also. The critical blow came at the end of 2005 with the loss of the flagship Tesco account to Red Brick Road, a start-up launched by the estranged Frank Lowe as soon as his non-compete clause would allow. As a result, Lowe London's billings plunged in 2006, almost halving to just £99m, according to Campaign/Nielsen estimates, and it tumbled down the rankings to the #19 spot.

For 2007, the agency lost no further business, and Nielsen estimated an improvement in billings to £114m. But growth by other agencies lost Lowe another rung in the rankings. In 2008, Lowe surrendered another flagship account, Stella Artois, when it was asked to compete against other agencies for a new brand variant. Later that year, it absorbed the local outpost of below-the-line network Rivet in an attempt to consolidate its grip on the Nokia account. That move was unsuccessful and Nokia too departed the agency. Its biggest local client, John Lewis, called a review at the end of 2008 and was resigned by Lowe shortly afterwards. For the year as a whole, Lowe slipped out of the Top 20, settling at #21 with billings of £94m. Those account losses made their impact felt in 2009, with billings almost halving to just £53m.

DLKW Lowe merger

In summer 2010, the trade press reported on rumours that Interpublic had approached Creston over a deal to acquire DLKW. That deal was confirmed in June. Interpublic agreed to acquire DLKW for £28m, and merged it with the London office of Lowe to form DLKW Lowe. In its prospectus to shareholders regarding the sale, Creston reported that DLKW had generated revenues of £19.2m for the year to March 2010, and pretax profits of £3.1m. That represented around a quarter of Creston's group revenues.

The combined DLKW Lowe agency ended up as the UK #5 agency in 2010, with billings estimated at £228m. However, first year performance was disappointing, marked by the loss of Halifax, the merged agency's second biggest client. The following year saw further attrition, with Vauxhall and several piece of Unilever business shifted elsewhere, and only a handful of smaller new accounts added. As a result, the agency has slipped steadily down the rankings, falling out of the Top Ten in 2012. It lost one of its top three accounts the following year when Halfords jumped ship for Mother, despite some excellent creative from DLKW. Volkswagen's Seat brand was a key win at the end of 2013. However, Unilever is the biggest overall account by far - the agency also serves as the European hub for several brands marketed in Continental Europe. Nielsen (in Campaign) estimated billings of £146m for 2015. The group surrendered the Morrisons supermarket account in early 2016 to Publicis.

The loss of Morrisons prompted a sharp decline in billings for 2016 to £96m. That combined with the rebranding to MullenLowe to prompt the departure of virtually all the agency's remaining DLKW staff members. Instead, several senior positions were inherited by executives from the digital shop Profero, now MullenLowe Profero, which Interpublic had acquired in 2014.

In yet another attempt to boost performance, Interpublic acquired independent agency 101 in summer 2017, and transplanted its four founders (and clients) into the merged London agency.

Towards the end of 2010, DLKW Lowe established a new retail activation and shopper marketing unit, now MullenLowe Open. Additional offices were established in local Lowe offices in selected markets in Eastern Europe and Asia. A digital division, Lowe Epic, was added towards the end of 2013 as well as design unit Design By Colour. Following the realignment with Mullen, the London office also established a local outpost of the US agency's Mediahub media planning and buyting satellite. PR agency Salt Communications was also acquired in 2017, and now operates as MullenLowe Salt. Yeti is the agency's inhouse production division.

Financials

The company that now trades as MullenLowe London Ltd was originally founded in 1961 as Interpublic subsidiary Wasey Campbell-Ewald, and has evolved through a series of subsequent mergers, becoming Lowe Howard-Spink Campbell-Ewald in 1983, following the acquisition of Frank Lowe's original agency; then Lowe Lintas in 2000; and DLKW Lowe in 2010 before its most recent rebranding.

MullenLowe London Ltd filed accounts for 2016 showing turnover (gross billings) of £63.06m, down by almost a third on the year before. Net revenues fell 29% to £20.41m, and the company reported a net loss of £2.54m for the year, compared to a profit of £279k the year before. Almost 87% of turnover was generated in the UK, and there were an average of 160 employees.

MullenLowe Group Ltd is a separate company, a successor to the old Lowe & Partners Worldwide Ltd business, employing 52 staff. Turnover for 2016 was £40.2m, only a small share of which originated in the UK.

Management

DLKW's senior management team initially retained their roles in the merged DLKW Lowe agency. Greg Delaney became chairman, with Tom Knox and Richard Warren as joint CEOs. DLKW's George Prest was initially named as executive creative director of the combined business, but quit the agency in early 2011. His role was eventually split between Dave Henderson and Richard Denney, who joined from DDB. Henderson became chief creative officer, but left the agency in 2016; Denney remained executive creative director until March 2017, when he too departed. Greg Delaney announced his retirement from the agency from the end of 2013, after 37 years with the company. (He launched a new content creation agency Watchable in 2015 in partnership with nephew Theo).

As a result, Tom Knox moved up to chairman; with Richard Warren becoming CEO. Following the merger in 2015 with Mullen, Warren was named as CEO of Mullen Lowe Group UK, with Jamie Elliott appointed as CEO of MullenLowe London. However, Warren subsequently departed the agency in summer 2016, followed by Elliott a few weeks later. Dale Gall moved across from MullenLowe Profero to take up the mantle. However he lasted just 18 months before departing in April 2018. His successor was MullenLowe EMEA chief Jeremy Hine.

Background

After a brief stint as a deckchair attendant on Brighton Beach, Greg Delaney formed advertising agency Delaney & Delaney in 1976 with brother Barry. (Two other brothers are also active within the UK industry - Simon is a noted commercials director, while Tim is the co-founder and principal of Leagas Delaney. Barry Delaney's sons also work in the industry). The agency quickly established a strong reputation, and was joined in 1986 by advertising guru Winston Fletcher, to become Delaney Fletcher Delaney. Three years later, Barry left the business at the same time as it was acquired by US agency Bozell, which was then beginning to establish an international network. Delaney Fletcher's media department was spun out under the name BJK&E. However the subsequent acquisition of Bozell by True North led to a conflict of interest in the late 1990s: in 1999, TN moved Bozell's entire international network across to its main business, FCB Worldwide, which had a powerhouse reputation in the US, but little penetration elsewhere in the world. As a result, Delaney Fletcher Bozell was faced with the likely prospect of a forced merger with FCB's existing UK operation, Banks Hoggins O'Shea/FCB.

Greg Delaney declined the merger, offering instead to buy out the agency as a standalone, along with his fellow directors. Mark Lund had joined the agency in 1995, becoming CEO in 1998. Tom Knox and, oddly enough, two Richard Warrens were respectively managing director, strategy director and creative director. (Richard J Warren left the agency in 2007). True North moved all the agency's existing international business across to Banks Hoggins/FCB, but retained a minority stake in the newly renamed Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners agency, and granted access to FCB's global network where necessary. (At the same time, DLKW reacquired part of the equity in media shop BJK&E; the remaining shares were sold to Tempus Group, then owners of The Media Edge. That holding was subsequently inherited by WPP).

Following Interpublic's takeover of True North, the minority stake in DLKW was transferred into The Partnership, the short-lived marketing network created around Lowe & Partners. However, for the most part, DLKW continued to operate more or less independently, and indeed created friction in its relationship with Lowe by steadily winning away more and more of that agency's business from car manufacturer Vauxhall. DLKW's partners bought out Interpublic's remaining shares in 2005, selling them on to marketing group Creston. See Lowe network profile for history of Lowe London.

Last full revision 26th March 2018

* Archive page for historical reference only. This profile is no longer being actively updated. See active page here *


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