Revellers at last week's Client Xmas Party.
Time to close down the blog for the holidays. But before Welcome to Optimism dons its paper hat, loosens its belt and settles down in front of the TV with a few tinnies, let's look back over 2007 and revisit the objectives Wieden + Kennedy London set itself at the start of the year.
We had a bloody good 2007. But that doesn’t mean we’ve done everything we set out to do.
1. Continue to try to produce the best work of our lives, across all of our clients
This is always job number one. And we’ve done well this year at broadening the quality of what we do from a couple of clients to a broad range. We’ve launched new work for new clients of which we can be justifiably very proud. Plus we continued to pull in accolades for our work with long-standing clients. Arguably in 2007 we didn’t have a world-conquering blockbuster on the scale of ‘Cog’, but our portfolio has never been stronger across the board. This is the kind of objective where you can never really say ‘job done’, but we’ve given it a damn good try in 2007.
2. Have our best year yet for revenue. Keep our costs in check.
We achieved the first of these and though we went WAY over budget on freelance costs, the second was otherwise under control. Even our big building project, the third floor extension, came in pretty much on target.
3. Win a big new account. (Big revenue. Big creative opportunity.)
We had an awesome year for new biz: Save the Children, Nokia flagship stores, Visa World Cup sponsorship, The Observer and of course the Nokia global account. In fact, we achieved our targets so resoundingly in the first half of the year that for the last few months we closed our doors to new business opportunities in order to focus on existing clients. This meant turning down some juicy opportunities but it was the right thing to do.
So, we achieved this objective and then some - we couldn’t possibly have won bigger, or have won business with more potential to do exciting, innovative work.
4. Develop our international reach
With the wins of Visa and Nokia, both of which are global assignments that we’ll run from London, we did well on this. If you add to these our work internationally for Emeco, in Romania for Orange, and in China for Nokia flagship stores, we can reasonably claim to have become an agency of global scope based in the UK.
5. Fully embrace interactive media and turn W+K into the UK's first agency to offer genuinely integrated, creatively brilliant offline/online campaigns.
We invested in digital talent, bringing in a number of new people, and did a fair bit of digital work this year for Honda, Nike, Save the Children and Pizza Hut. We completely overhauled the Visit Wales website and created Emeco’s first e-commerce site. We built an interactive microsite for Cravendale and we created the interactive ‘Meet your City’ campaign for Nokia flagship stores. Rather than treating interactive as an add-on, we’ve approached these jobs in a completely integrated way from the outset.
Perhaps we couldn’t honestly claim that we’ve fully achieved this objective as expressed above but we’ve definitely fully embraced interactive media. And we’re making real progress on the second part of the goal. Our appointment to Nokia’s interactive work will see a continuing focus on this area next year.
6. Do more to share people with other W+K network offices
There are legal barriers to this (work permits and Visas and stuff) but we think it benefits the individuals involved and helps to improve shared culture and good working relationships round the network. So it’s a Good Thing. We managed to do this quite a lot this year, both bringing people into London for a spell from round the network, particularly on Nokia , and sending our people off to other offices. We definitely made significant progress on this objective, and W+K London felt much more connected to the wider world of Wieden as a result.
7. Do more good
Our aim is to do a bit more for our people and the community than just making adverts. This year we started working with Save the Children. We also introduced a new provision to allow staff to take time off to do charity work. And we got involved with a scheme that sponsors our people to visit charities and aid organisations in developing markets to consult on comms issues. Account Director Penny Brough spent a month in Brazil under this initiative. We connected with a local school to do creative days with the kids. We also helped our neighbours at Old Spitalfields Market to maintain business during the redevelopment of the market site, by developing a promotional campaign for Christmas shopping at the market.
And we did a lot of work on recycling and the like to reduce our environmental impact. Combined with offsetting (via a Chinese hydro power scheme, and Indian wind power scheme and a German waste gas power project), the installation of solar panels on the roof and the change of our energy to supplies from renewable sources, we are now carbon-neutral.
8. Find ways of improving our efficiency without compromising on quality
The old question: does it always take a long time and a lot of pain to get to great work? Maybe, but we need to find ways of at least minimising the pain. To be honest, this year was probably as hard as ever in this respect, because we’ve been so busy. This is an area we need to continue to focus on, to ensure that we find ways of working that will accommodate the increased workload brought by growth, without causing log-jams / meltdown / nervous breakdowns. One key development here is our decision to merge the historically separate functions of broadcast, print and interactive production into one department responsible for the execution of all work. We hired Rob Steiner in the new role of Director of Operations to head this up.
Rob’s appointment is a key step in our plan to deliver 360 degree integration of ATL and Interactive. But more than that, Rob will lead our search to find the people and partners who will enable W+K to execute ideas in new, diverse areas: product design, retail, content, brand creation and beyond. Our dream is to stretch the definition of what an agency can become. We want not only to create strong, provocative relationships between good companies and their customers; we want to create ideas and properties of our own that will influence culture and build our business. We want to create connections and partnerships with the most innovative and creative thinkers, doers and entrepreneurs around the world.
9. Create our own content and start to create new models for making money from our own content
Progress on this goal was disappointing as we focused on client and new biz demands for the majority of the year. We produced all sorts of new content for our clients, and for Honda in particular. But beyond some small bits and pieces we didn’t do much in the way of Wieden + Kennedy content. And we certainly didn’t make any money from it! However, we did hire Content Planner Andrew Stirk with specific responsibility to drive this area and, now that he’s on board, we expect to make bigger strides on this in 2008.
10. Dial up the crazy
Wieden + Kennedy has never been a conventional agency and we have no intention of becoming one. As we get older and bigger we need to make sure that we don't lose our edge. We need to keep our thinking, our people and our environment fresh, provocative and surprising. In Kim Papworth’s words, we want to stay ‘wrong side of the tracks’. Because the craziness is what generates the big creative leap and what makes this a stimulating, challenging, fun place to work. It can be difficult to remember this when you’re working as hard as we did this year. And maybe at times we were driven to follow the most direct route rather than to try the random divergent path that may lead to somewhere more interesting. But on the other hand, we continue to make decisions that we would never consider if our primary goal was profit. We hire ‘wrong’, we resist the easy option, we encourage debate, we try to ‘walk in stupid’ every day – no assumptions that we know the answers. And we have a variety of cultural initiatives to keep everyone connected and stimulated: Sophie Dollar’s film nights, Stu’s thirsty Thursdays, and of course a number of exceptionally debauched parties.
Still crazy (after all these years)? Let’s hope so.
Looking back over the year, we’ve done well against these objectives. We haven't nailed them all, but then we deliberately aimed high. We started the year at around 75 people and we’ll finish it at nearly 130 strong. That’s some rapid growth. We’ve done some great work along the way, we’ve continued with initiatives like WK Side and WK Circle and we’ve continued to push into new areas like designing the Regents Street Christmas lights, making short films for Honda, creating exhibition stands for Emeco, working on a documentary based around the interactive football world cup for EA and redesigning the interiors at Cardiff Airport for Visit Wales. All in all, 2007 has been our most successful year yet.
Here’s to an even bigger, better, bolder 2008.
And how about that horoscope we looked at back in January with predictions for W+K for 2007?
Here's what they said:
'You have been going through a speedy maturing process in the past couple of years and are finally emerging from the shade.
'Your fortunes are moving through a phase of expansion... Your spirit of adventure and enterprise will be the main driving force in the improvement of your fortunes in the coming year. Make the most of your energy and creative powers to enhance your financial situation.
'Altogether it seems that you are heading for a time of increasing success and now feel more in control of your destiny. Start the year with ambition and it'll soon pay off handsomely.'
Merry Christmas and Happy Hogmanay to all our readers. See you in 2008 for more fun.