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VCCP (UK)

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VCCP is a full-service agency based in London, with a growing collection of satellite marketing services units as well as subsidiary offices in Europe and Australia. Launched in 2002, it was acquired three years later by public relations group Chime, and now forms the core of that company's advertising & marketing services division. It is best known for its work for two key clients, mobile operator O2 and insurance comparison website Comparethemarket.com, for whom it created the hugely popular brand mascot Aleksandr the Meerkat. Steady expansion and an extraordinary string of account wins catapulted the agency into the UK top ten for the first time in 2011. VCCP took its first steps outside Europe at the end of 2012 with the launch of an office in Australia. It acquired San Francisco agency Muh-Tay-sik Hof-fer in 2016.

Clients

Click here for a VCCP client listing from Adbrands Account Assignments

Competitors

see ranking of Leading UK Agencies

Brands & Activities

By mid-2016, VCCP had expanded its global network to six cities. In addition to the main outpost in London, there are also agencies in Berlin, Madrid and Prague, San Francisco and Sydney.

VCCP's creative work has traditionally been straightforward and effective rather than ground-breaking, but in 2009 it began to demonstrate a far more adventurous spirit for the first time. Its Aleksandr the Meerkat campaign for insurance comparison website CompareTheMarket.com was arguably the advertising industry sensation of the year, so popular with consumers that it elevated the service from an also-ran to the market leader within the sector, a position it has retained ever since. Partly as a result of that campaign, VCCP was named as Creative Agency of the Year in 2009 by trade title Marketing.

The agency also turned in a storming succession of account wins, adding no less than 30 new clients in 2011 alone. That caused billings to jump by almost 42% in 2011, enough to secure VCCP a place among the UK Top Ten for the first time. Another 22 accounts joined the roster during 2012 and the continuing strength of its work for Comparethemarket and O2, as well as the outstanding new business performance, earned it another Agency of the Year accolade from Marketing.

In 2013 VCCP was picked as Campaign magazine's Agency Of The Year for the first time following another spectacular new business performance, which included the addition of no less than 19 new accounts including supermarket giant Asda, which at last toppled O2 as VCCP's single biggest client. The £114m in new business gained in 2013 was almost twice as much as any other agency managed during the year. Even more impressive has been the continuing improvement in overall creative standards following the recruitment of teams from Wieden & Kennedy and other agencies.

For 2015, Nielsen (in Campaign) estimated billings of £226m. Other key clients include BGL (parent of CompareTheMarket and other brands), Muller and EasyJet. However, a shock blow in early 2016 was the loss of the Asda account back to Saatchi & Saatchi.

VCCP offers a broad range of services within the UK and has also proved itself in the international sector by adapting its own work for several clients across Europe. Its longest established international outpost is in Berlin (opened in 2008 for O2) and there are also offices in Prague (also originally for O2) and Madrid. An office opened in Australia at the end of 2012. A French office - VCCP St Pancras - opened in Paris in 2014 but didn't last long. The first presence in the US came with the purchase of San Francisco agency Muh-Tay-sik Hof-fer, which continues to operate under its original name for the time being. The deal price was $30m upfront with deferred consideration of up to another $30m depending on performance.

Branded subsidiaries include interactive arm VCCP digital (which absorbed Chime's Rare agency in 2006), search marketing specialist VCCP Search and brand integration agency VCCP Blue. Direct marketing unit SFW (or Stephens Francis Whitson) merged in 2012 with digital consultancy Tree, and rebranded as VCCPme. The group acquired independent media agency Ad Connection at the end of 2015. This was relaunched in early 2016 as VCCP Media. The group's inhouse content and social unit operates as VCCP Kin, and there is a standalone phara marketing arm under the banner VCCP Health.

Under the banner of The VCCP Partnership the wider group operates several other standalone subsidiaries including media shop Pure Media, brand identity agency SomeOne and retail specialist WARL. At the end of 2011 the group strengthened its UK portfolio with the acquisition of integrated agency Hooper Galton, which was rebranded as Big Eyes. It was in turn absorbed into new unit Snap at the end of 2016.

Financials

Chime's advertising & marketing services division reported combined operating income of £86.8m in 2014, and operating profit of £12.4m. No figures were reported for 2015 because of the buyout in October that year by private equity fund Providence.

VCCP Group reported turnover of £104.3m for 2015, up 2%. Gross profit was up 9% to £47.0m and net profit by 25% to £6.4m. Around 91% of revenues was generated in the UK. Staff numbers averaged 495 employees during the year.

Management

Founding partners Adrian Coleman and Charles Vallance remain group chief executive and chairman respectively. Ian Priest became head of investment fund Chime Ventures at the parent company, but eventually announced his departure from the group in 2015, becoming global chief executive of executive search specialist Grace Blue. Rooney Carruthers retained a consultative role at the business until 2014, when he joined indie agency Enter as creative partner. That agency is now George & Dragon.

Background

VCCP was established in 2002 by four partners: Charles Vallance (formerly strategy director of WCRS), Rooney Carruthers (formerly creative director of FCB San Francisco), Adrian Coleman (formerly CEO of Chime's AMD division) and Ian Priest (formerly MD of HHCL). The team was well experienced in mobile telecoms - Carruthers and Vallance had both worked on the Orange account; and the latter also worked at WCRS on Vodafone. As a result, VCCP got off to a cracking start when it picked up the business for O2, the newly spun-off mobile telecoms business formerly known as BT Cellnet. The appointment was a surprise blow for BT Cellnet's previous agency AMV, as well as something of a risk for O2 since the account covered the brand's entire European network, including operations in Germany, Netherlands and Ireland.

A privately funded start-up with no existing access to a European network, VCCP quickly put together its own set of alliances with local partners to rework creative in each territory. In 2003 and 2004, VCCP showed it had the capacity to attract other business as well, picking up a string of decent accounts, not least the prestigious Diet Coke account. In June 2005, the agency was acquired by Chime Communications for up to £30m in cash and shares, and was made the core of a newly restructured marketing services division within Chime. As a result, it absorbed Chime's existing integrated agency Heresy, and took over management control of the group's other advertising and marketing subsidiaries.

Last full revision 4th November 2016

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