Karmarama is a leading creative agency based in London. It broke into Campaign's Top 30 rankings for the first time in 2009, and reached the Top 20 in 2015. Nielsen (in Campaign) estimated billings of £149m for 2019, ranking the agency as the UK #13. Karmarama was launched in 2000 by Dave Buonaguidi, previously a co-founder of St Luke's and later of Channel 4's inhouse unit 4creative. Yet for the most part the agency remained only a minor presence in the industry until the arrival in 2008 of Nicola Mendelsohn, one of London's best-connected ad executives and former deputy chairman of Grey. The agency expanded dramatically over the following few years. In 2012, following the introduction of private equity funding, it acquired integrated agency Crayon. Further acquisitions followed, including Grape Digital and the Nice Agency, both of which were absorbed into the main agency. Mendelsohn moved on in 2013 (to Facebook) and Buonaguidi the following year, but Karmarama continued to prosper, though growth has been much less dramatic, especially in the past couple of years. In a key milestone in Karamarama's history, the agency was acquired by Accenture at the end of 2016. Former Naked founder Jon Wilkins is executive chairman, with Ben Bilboul as chief executive. Nik Studzinski joined from Droga5 in 2015 as chief creative officer. Legal entity Karmarama Ltd reported turnover of £34.9m for the year to Aug 2019, down 7%, and a net loss of £837k, largely as a result of a large impairment charge against two subsidiary units. As its name suggests, the agency has long been among the UK's most socially responsible ad agencies, billing itself as the "Home of Good Works" and establishing a number of programmes to promote equal opportunities and mindfulness both within its own walls and in the wider society.
Capsule checked 10th November 2020
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Historical profile information for Karmarama
Adbrands Daily Update 12th Dec 2018: Karmarama scored a significant new business victory with the capture of creative for the UK outpost of discounter Lidl. With billings of around £70m annually, it is almost certainly the biggest win to-date for Karmarama, and definitely the biggest since the agency was acquired by Accenture. The account was previously with TBWA.
Adbrands Social Media 17th Aug 2018: "Confusion to Clarity". British price comparison website Confused.com is following a very different path for its latest ad campaign. A change of CMO usually involves a change of agency, but instead newly arrived Sam Day has kept hold of Karmarama and dropped ad front man James Corden. He told The Drum that Corden's ads have gone down well with viewers but that recall was low. People were talking about Corden not about car insurance. Gone too is that upbeat comic style, replaced by this dystopian message about price confusion. We guess that fits better with the brand name, but we wonder if customers might prefer a bit of lightness to this dark chaos, however apt it might be.
Adbrands Weekly Update 18th Jan 2018: Ads of the Week: "This Is Belonging 2018: Faith". Karmarama's new campaign for British Army recruitment got the usual dog whistle anti-political correctness flak from the Daily Mail and other right-wing media outlets but actually the concept is entirely admirable. There are 10 very diverse campaigns, but just a couple have raised eyebrows for tackling questions of faith and gender. Here's the one designed to show that the Army aims to accept different faiths among its ranks. In reality, we're sure there would be plenty of ribbing too, but taken as a whole, the ads offer an excellent, balanced and quite compelling vision of life in the Armed Forces. Surely, this is how we all feel the Army should be, even the Daily Mail. See our Facebook page for a few of the other - less controversial - ads in the campaign.
Adbrands Weekly Update 12th Jan 2017: Ads of the Week: "This is Belonging". Oh, that quiet British reserve, God bless it! We'd wager there isn't another country in the world that could successfully promote a career in the military with these low-key but surprisingly convincing spots for the British Army from Karmarama. Other countries do the Band of Brothers thing with yee-haws and high fives; we do it with a cup of soup and a rub on the head.
Adbrands Weekly Update 8th Dec 2016: In an unexpected but probably inevitable challenge to the major marketing groups, arguably the most pioneering of the major management consultancies to have moved into digital marketing has now acquired its first traditional creative agency. Accenture acquired London creative agency Karmarama for an undisclosed sum though to be around £50m. The shop will retain its own brand, at least for the time being, under the umbrella of its new owner's Accenture Interactive division, and the current management team will also contribute their expertise to AI's EMEA and Latin American operations. Creative chief Nik Studzinski becomes lead creative officer for Accenture Interactive across the region and will assist with the creation of new global creative council.
"Acquiring a creative agency in London, where some of the world’s most iconic creative work is produced, will help us reshape how brands imagine, create, and deliver customer experiences," said Brian Whipple, head of Accenture Interactive. "Karmarama will become part of the world’s largest digital agency, expanding our global capabilities across experience, marketing, content and commerce with excellence in creative and mobile. This will contribute to further differentiate Accenture Interactive as a new breed of agency – experience architects – which helps brands connect disconnected experiences and shares accountability with clients for their business outcomes." Accenture has acquired a number of small and midsize digital agencies in recent years, as have peers such as PwC, Deloitte and IBM. However this is the first time any of the consultancies have crossed over so blatantly into the traditional turf of WPP, Omnicom et al. with the purchase of a well-known broad-based creative agency.
Karmarama founder Dave Buonaguidi left the agency in 2014 and is now CCO of CP&B London, though he remained a shareholder. He commented "Accenture know their shit, they have a great business, and strong relationships, but they have little or no culture of note. Karmarama have a good creative rep, a strong culture and good people. Could be the marriage of the year, but all of that promise depends on the ambition, energy and talent of the people in the agency right now. But the fact is that there is now one less interesting independent company in a business that is sadly devoid of personality and character."
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