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St Luke's (UK)

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In its early days St Luke's earned a reputation as one of the UK's hottest creative agencies, as well as its most idiosyncratic. The company was renowned for its radical thinking, operating as a non-hierarchical cooperative: all employees had an equal shareholding in the business, there were no personal desks, a completely mobile phone system, and rooms dedicated to specific clients rather than to its personnel. Did the system work? Despite its utopian management style, the agency built up a strong portfolio of leading clients in its heyday, but was later rocked by a series of management rifts which led to a full palace revolution and the ousting of founding guru Andy Law in 2003. As a result, St Luke's influence dwindled steadily in the second half of the decade. More recently, the agency has mellowed its radical stance, and that appears to have helped its new business record.

Competitors

See Leading UK Agencies for other companies

Clients

Click here for a St Luke's client listing from Adbrands Account Assignments

Contact

St Luke's
18 Dukes Road
London WC1H 9PY
United Kingdom
Tel: 44 (0)20 7380 8888

Brands & Activities

St Luke's has recovered spiritually from the turmoil it suffered during 2003. It is still effectively a cooperative, jointly owned by all staff members. While this worked very much in the agency's favour in its formative years, it led to disharmony in 2002, culminating in a revolution in early 2003, in which founder Andy Law and creative director Kate Stanners were forced out of the company following a staff vote over policy.

Even before that point the company's new business record had begun to stall, and it took some time for St Luke's to recover from its internal wrangling, although existing major clients such as COI (and for a while Clarks) remained loyal. The agency's new business record steadily slipped over the following years. Several of its longest-standing clients moved on, but the agency failed to attract new business to replace them. There were no new business wins at all during 2008. From a peak of £90m estimated by Campaign/Nielsen Media Research in 2001, billings have steadily tumbled, falling to a new low of under £13m in 2009. Nevertheless, there were signs of rebirth in late 2009 and 2010, with billings rising to £25m for the latter year. The capture of Shop Direct's consolidated account in 2013 and additional work for Heineken pushed St Luke's back into the Top 30 agencies for the first time in a decade. Nielsen (in Campaign) estimated billings of £49m for 2014.

Under Andy Law's guidance, St Luke's set up affiliate outposts in Sweden in 2000 and in India in 2002. The London agency's shareholdings in both affiliates were sold in 2005. St Luke's Sweden shut down in 2006.

St Luke's Holdings Ltd reported turnover (billings) of £10m in 2014, up 11%. Gross profit (revenues) jumped by more than a third to £4.2m and net profits almost doubled to £1.3m.

Management

Neil Henderson is managing director of St Luke's and the controlling shareholder with 35% of equity. Al Young is executive creative director, and one of the agency's last remaining founder directors with 30%. The remaining shares are owned by other staff and an employee benefits trust. Other managers include Dan Hulse (managing director & planning partner), Julian Vizard (creative partner) and Jess Gibb (business development director).

Background

St Luke's began life as the UK office of Australian agency Mojo. But establishing a British operation was a step too far for the independent Australian shop, and in 1989 the business was acquired by Chiat/Day, the American agency famed for its creative excellence in general, and especially for its celebrated launch campaign for the Apple Mac. The US company then set about assembling a new British management team, recruiting Andy Law from CDP as account director and appointing Marie-Terese ("MT") Rainey as managing director. Newly appointed creative directors were Ken Hoggins and Chris O'Shea.

The agency, known initially as Chiat/Day Mojo, got off to a good start, quickly winning the business of Midland Bank (now HSBC), as well as string of other prestigious accounts. However, at the same time, the management team began fighting among themselves. In 1991, Hoggins and O'Shea left to start their own agency (Banks Hoggins O'Shea, later to become the UK outpost of FCB Worldwide). Shortly afterwards, several of the new clients also moved their business elsewhere, and by 1992 the agency had lost almost all of its initial sparkle. In 1993, Andy Law replaced MT Rainey as MD. (She went off to co-found her own agency, Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe, later the UK outpost of Young & Rubicam). During the next two years the agency, now just Chiat/Day London, began to pull itself back together. But plans were derailed yet again at the start of 1995 when Chiat/Day was suddenly and unexpectedly acquired by Omnicom and merged into its TBWA Worldwide network.

Rather than merge with TBWA's existing London office, with the resulting redundancies this would entail, chairman Andy Law led what was effectively a mutiny by the entire London team. They presented a case to buy out the business from Omnicom on a seven-year payback, while also introducing a highly unusual commune-style management system, and a strong ethical approach to all marketing. All employees were allocated an equal shareholding in the new business regardless of salary, rank or length of service, and additional shares were reserved for future employees. The company also established a trust to distribute profits equally among the shareholders. Just as unusual was the new agency's erudite name, selected according to the medieval principal that crafts guilds named themselves after saints. St Luke was traditionally patron saint of creative people (and also of doctors), while the unusual logo was derived from the fact that he was represented in Dante's Divine Comedy as a winged ox.

Despite general agreement from the industry in general that St Luke's would fail spectacularly, Andy Law and his team achieved the complete opposite. In its first 15 months the infant shop added £20m of new business on top of the £35m it inherited from Chiat Day, including the key account for rail service Eurostar. In 1997, St Luke's success was cemented when it was awarded the title of Agency of the Year by trade paper Campaign, ending that trophy's domination by local giant Abbott Mead Vickers.

Inevitably there were plenty of downs to accompany the ups. St Luke's lost the Eurostar account back to Y&R London (by now headed by MT Rainey) in 1999, and several of the company's original founders moved on to other things. (Two of them, Dave Buonaguidi and Naresh Ramchandani, launched another independent shop, Karmarama). However, St Luke's unique ethos established Andy Law as the presiding guru of alternative management thinking. So much so that the agency even came close to a partnership with the management consultancy Andersen (the predecessor to Accenture). Meanwhile St Luke's showed its strength in 2000 when it stole from AMV lead position on the huge BT account. Later that year the agency opened an office in Stockholm to serve new telecoms client Telia. It also invested in smaller local start-ups, such as new media consultancy Klondike, and digital agency Glue London.

However St Luke's also seemed to have lost some of its creative sparkle, losing three major accounts during 2001. Co-founder David Abrahams left that year in search of fresh challenges, and a year later, Andy Law took on an additional role as partner in Artist Network, a new creative agency founded by former rock star Dave Stewart to work with musicians and filmmakers alienated by traditional corporate mentality. Among other projects, Law was heavily involved in the resurrection of famed London music venue The Marquee Club. For a while, he made the most of his role as a management guru, writing two books about the St Luke's phenomenon. Meanwhile, a new management team was appointed at St Luke's, which passed an uncharacteristically quiet year in 2001, although its launch ad for BT Broadband was among the most expensive and most widely seen campaigns of the year.

When The Marquee Club closed again at the end of 2002, Law threw himself back into the day-to-day business of St Luke's and was reported to be considering the creation of a New York office. That year he and deputy chairman Kate Stanners were also responsible for establishing another international office, in India, an unusual pitstop for an expanding independent advertising agency. These developments soon created a damaging rift between senior staff, with newly appointed joint managing directors Neil Henderson and Phil Teer opposing both the New York move and Law's renewed involvement with St Luke's. The internal row reached crisis point in February 2003, when Law sacked both Henderson and Teer. They refused to accept the sacking, and demanded that their dismissal be put to a company vote. To Law's dismay, the St Luke's staff voted for them to stay. Law and Stanners resigned shortly afterwards.

Although St Luke's gradually resumed normal business, life went less smoothly for Andy Law and Kate Stanners. After a year off and several months of protracted negotiations, they briefly became partners in the London office of German agency Springer + Jacoby, renamed Boy Meets Girl S&J. That arrangement subsequently fell apart after a disagreement over direction. Stanners left to join Saatchi & Saatchi in London. Law led a management buyout of Boymeetsgirl from IPG and S+J, but the agency went bust in 2005. A few months later, Law announced a new marketing services project as a joint venture with Praveen Kenneth, formerly CEO of St Luke's India, but those plans failed to materialise. Instead, Law eventually established a new "virtual" global agency in 2006 under the name The Law Firm.

Last full revision 12th February 2016

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


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