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Wieden & Kennedy London (UK)

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Wieden & Kennedy London has tended to play a supporting role to the main HQ in Portland and the European hub in Amsterdam, especially on global accounts. However it has gained considerable acclaim for a series of campaigns for local advertisers, such as Honda and Arla's Lurpak and Cravendale brands. Its biggest gain to-date came with the capture of the Tesco account in summer 2012, but the rigours of that business proved too much. The client moved account again in early 2015, but a little over a year later W&K returned to the supermarket sector with the capture of Sainsbury's.

Clients

Click here for a Wieden & Kennedy London client listing from Adbrands Account Assignments

Account Gains 2017: Formula 1 (Global), The Football Association (UK) Losses: Finish, Nurofen (Global), Halls (Europe)

Account Gains 2016: Sainsbury's (UK £60m) Losses: -

Account Gains 2015: TK Maxx (Europe), Maynard's/Bassett's (UK) Losses: Tesco (UK £120m)

Competitors

See Leading UK Agencies for other companies

Brands & Activities

The capture of Tesco in 2012 catapulted the local office of Wieden & Kennedy into the big league among UK agencies. For 2013, Nielsen (in Campaign) estimated billings of £148m, placing the agency as the local #13, ahead even of the likes of Grey, JWT and Saatchi & Saatchi. However, the supermarket's subsequent travails proved too hard for W&K to solve, and the business moved on once again in 2015 to BBH. Nielsen's 2014 estimate put billings at £129m. That figure almost halved to £67m for 2015, but if anything the loss of the creatively undemanding Tesco account probably won't have caused many tears to be shed inhouse.

That doesn't mean W&K turned its back on the supermarket sector, because a year later captured the Sainsbury's account after decades at AMV BBDO. Better still, the rival retailer has allowed the agency greater apparent freedom to come up with a bold new approach, even if its expenditure is somewhat lowe.

Corporate entity Wieden & Kennedy UK Ltd reported turnover (net revenue) of £30.55m in 2015, the highest level to-date. However, there was a near 14% dip for 2016 to £26.4m. The £1.4m net profit reported in 2015 turned into a £58,000 loss. The agency employed an average of 184 staff during the year.

Background

London was Wieden & Kennedy's second European outpost. An office had already opened in Amsterdam at the start of the 1990s to service Nike, and the UK unit was designed to broaden that coverage. In fact, Nike initially insisted that the London office couldn't pitch for any new business for its first six months of operation; and was then warned off any accounts that would create potential conflicts with the Nike and Heineken accounts based out of Amsterdam.

The new agency was also plagued by staff problems, some of which were attributed to the strong hold exerted by agency boss Dan Wieden. In its first 18 months, WK London chewed its way through three successive management teams, and there was even talk of shutting down the office altogether. Finally, though, the business hit its stride in 2001 under Australian-born managing director Amy Smith (poached from WCRS) and creative directors Tony Davidson and Kim Papworth (from BBH).

The key development was the capture of the prestigious local Honda account. The "Power Of Dreams" campaign went on to dominate the agency's performance for the next few years, especially after the release of the two-minute "Cog" film, which captured just about every creative award going during 2003 and 2004 (despite some controversy when two independent filmmakers claimed the idea was borrowed from them). Amy Smith moved back to Australia in 2004, and was succeeded as managing director by Neil Christie, who led an aggressive new business drive, successfully doubling the shop's billings and reducing its reliance on Honda.

The most significant addition was Nokia, then hitting its peak as the global mobile champion. The agency also played an important role developing the extraordinary "Write The Future" Nike Football campaign in 2010 in partnership with Amsterdam. However, the loss of a now-struggling Nokia in 2011 after several months of rumours came as a significant blow. This was partially offset by the massive popularity of the "Cats With Thumbs" campaign for Cravendale Milk, which was voted best ad of 2011 by viewers of ITV in an end-of-year round-up.

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