McCann London

the showcase 2023

Facing forward: McCann's 2023

After a strong year, this invigorated management team is hungry for success

By creative salon

McCann London’s year has been filled with a plethora of campaigns, varying vastly in tone, style and execution - from rap-opera to pink ‘finance elephants’. This has always been an agency with tremendous strength in depth and it proved that once again in 2023.

The agency also boosted its leadership team, with Mel Arrow stepping into the CSO role from BMB, Tommy Smith filling the position of managing director and Regan Warner (re)joining as ECD - further strengthening CCOs Rob Doubal and Laurence Thomson's creative leadership team. Along with last year's major hire Jemima Monies, the McCann crew is now one of the strongest in the business.

To add to these positive changes, Sky selected McCann London to join its UK agency roster and McCann Worldgroup also landed the accounts of both Durex and Ikea.

CEO Polly McMorrow has really set the agency up for a surge ahead in 2024, so we caught up with her to explore the creative shop’s sterling year.

Polly McMorrow, CEO at McCann London, on the agency's 2023

What three words would you use to describe 2023?

Lights, camera, action.

Talk us through some of your agency’s highlights this year?

It’s all about the work for me.

We’ve created a body of work that has simultaneously been as entertaining, like Christina and Latto for Just Eat, as it has substantive, like Nurofen’s Gender Pain Gap, as it has provocative, like Everyday Tactician for Xbox.

I love it all. The spread is what makes us unique.

What one thing are you proudest of this year?

Not only am I a CEO, I’m also a mum of two (extremely self-agenda’d) little women, and assembling a new leadership team with some world class women across all disciplines - Mel (Arrow) as CSO, Jemima (Monies) as COO and Regan (Warner) as ECD - remains a real source of pride for me.

And what’s been your biggest challenge?

The industry has never been more competitive and more unforgiving. Navigating this while making the time to reflect has definitely been a challenge.

What are you most looking forward to in 2024?

Making McCann feared and revered again.

I believe we’ve now got the best crew in the business, I’m excited by what we can achieve together in 2024.

And AOTY. Obviously.

And what one change would you most like to see in our industry next year?

A more fearless approach to creativity.

A bit more unbridled passion and excitement about the work we make. I want to be really, deeply unattractively jealous of people's work in 2024.

Creative Salon on McCann London’s 2023

McCann London kicked the year off by launching an integrated campaign to raise awareness of the new requirement for voters to show photographic ID at polling stations in the UK. This campaign was shortly followed by the news that Just Eat would be sponsoring Love Island for the fourth year in a row, with sponsorship campaigns created by McCann London. Idents spotlighted various restaurants that were a part of Just Eat’s offerings.

On the note of Just Eat, one of the agency’s biggest campaigns of the year was its third iteration of the ‘Did somebody say’ platform which saw up-and-coming hip-hop singer Latto collaborate with R&B icon Christina Aguilera. The rap-opera musical ad not only built on the success of Just Eat’s Katy Perry and Snoop Dogg campaigns - the latter of which Grubhub recently adopted in the US - but it also aimed to draw attention to the fact that the food delivery service also offers grocery deliveries.

Susan O’Brien, the brand’s global marketing boss, feels “incredibly proud” to have a brand platform that she believes will stand the test of time. The marketer puts the success of Just Eat’s most recent campaign - which has performed five times as well as the Katy Perry campaign - down to “consistency, nerve and distinctiveness” and O’Brien credits her partnership with McCann for that.

McCann does full-on mass-appeal campaigns at least as well as any agency in the business. Like its innovative work for TSB - which introduced Tiny, the ‘financial elephant in the room’ - and Shreddies - which saw television presenter Nick Knowles promote the cereal brand in a tongue-in-cheek campaign. McCann described the DIY SOS host as the UK's ‘unofficial answer to Chuck Norris’.

The creative business also created momentous sport-related campaigns for Sky Sports’ coverage of the Women's Super League (WSL) - which saw rapper Nadia Rose remix her cousin Stormzy’s ‘Shut up’ track - and Wimbledon - which included a collaboration with award-winning producer, composer and DJ, Hudson Mohawke. Separately, the agency and Sky Broadband unveiled the 'Sky Broadband Sweat Room' and esports activation hosted in partnership with David Beckham's Guild ESports.

McCann London also developed a vast array of meaningful campaigns this year. Two separate campaigns for Nurofen and domestic abuse charity Refuge focused on attitudes towards women. Nurofen’s ‘See My Pain’ campaign (the second iteration of the platform) highlighted the ‘Gender Pain Gap’ between genders, with 50 per cent of women admitting that they often feel ignored or dismissed by their GP when it came to addressing pain. The work included a range of imitation medicine products with labels describing the dismissals women often hear for their pain, such as “it’s all in your head”, or “maybe you're stressed”. Later in the year, McCann London also created 'Pain Pass' - a free downloadable PDF developed to help people track and articulate their pain and symptoms.

Refuge’s International Women’s Day campaign featured a collection of powerful poems revealing tales of domestic abuse. The collection of reversible poems told opposing stories depending on which way they were read. From top to bottom they were tales of loving relationships – but read from bottom to top and they reflect a very different reality; of coercion, control, abuse and violence.

Inventive and highly creative campaigns developed separately for UK Black Pride and Plant Drop also involved McCann raising awareness of the dangers of misinformation spreading about the Black trans community and also redefining the ways people can shop for household plants.

To top the year off, McCann entered the Christmas advertisement discussion with its 'William Conker And The Christmas Factory' campaign for Aldi. Not only did the spot successfully parody the Willy Wonka Roald Dahl tale with vegetable characters, but it was also ranked as the best ad of the season according to System1's 'Twelve Ads Of Christmas' which ranked festive campaigns based on viewers’ emotional response.

Creative Salon says: This has been a really strong foundational year for McCann London, with its new management team now firmly in place. But that's not to say that the agency didn't perform as well as the best in the market in 2023. The longevity and success of the Just Eat ‘Did somebody say?’ brand platform is hugely impactful - especially in such a saturated delivery market, while the powerful work for Nurofen highlighted a serious inequality that needs to be talked about more and gives Nurofen a tremendous, transformational brand platform.

The hugely impressive Polly McMorrow now has her crew in CSO Mel Arrow, CCOs Rob Doubal and Laurence Thomson, ECD Regan Warner, COO Jemima Monies. They are on tenter hooks as we write, waiting for a decision on Vodafone's pitch. But to have made it down to the last two in the pitch says so much about McCann's strengths and ambitions. And whatever happens with Vodafone, this is an agency to watch out for in 2024.


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