the showcase 2023

Finding its voice and making some noise: TBWA\London's 2023

Work for McVitie's and Ginsters were among its creative highlights

By creative salon

2023 was the year that the TBWA crew really felt like it had found its stride. A quiet revolution has been going on behind the TBWA front door and a stronger, more confident agency was in evidence this year, with a backbone of work, wins and new talent that proves CEO Larissa Vince means business.

To kick off our review of the agency's year, we asked Vince for her take on the last twelve months.

Larissa Vince, CEO, on TBWA\London's 2023

What three words would you use to describe 2023?

Loved it.

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

We’ve launched some work this year that we’re not just proud of, but which has fundamentally shifted our clients’ commercial performance and internal confidence.

McVitie's True Originals launch was a labour of love for the whole team. A list of such iconic British brands – from Jaffa Cakes, to HobNobs, to the original and best Digestive biscuit - deserves work that lives up to that iconicity. Commercially, it’s pulled like a train, but just as importantly, the factory workers (some of whom have worked for McVities for more than 30 years) are so proud of it. That’s a great feeling for the agency.

Similarly for Ginsters, our ‘Taste the Effort brand platform’ introduced a new character to the world, Merryn the farmer. Her passionate and, shall we say, quirky approach to farming has seen her become a huge hit with audiences, and we’re already working on more humorous and entertaining ways to keep her in consumers’ lives.

For Adidas, we helped to redefine the way people talk about women in football. In such a pivotal year with the Lionesses reaching the World Cup Final, our ‘Play Until They Can’t Look Away’ campaign really emphasised that women stand shoulder to shoulder with the male icons of the game - that they don’t need to be pushing an agenda or righting a wrong, but can be stars in their own right and, more importantly, just play football.

I think the agency has way more confidence too, despite a lot of change here. We moved on from two big clients a while back because we and they weren’t the right partners – and that was a big call at the time. But we’ve replaced them and grown another 15 per cent in 2023, because we have confidence in ourselves, our work, our recommendations, and that’s paying off.

What one thing are you proudest of this year?

Life is incredibly busy when you’re growing an agency, and how the team has come together and adapted to our changing needs has been a huge source of pride for me.

What has really united everyone is a fierce desire to keep answering that single most important of questions - what is the right thing to do for the brand? Not the client, or the creative, or anything really other than that. It gives every department a clear focus and when you act with that principle at the core, you can always be confident that you’re doing the right thing.

And what’s been your biggest challenge?

Time is always the biggest challenge. Just finding the time to think can be a huge struggle. Our clients are under increasing time pressure themselves, which we have to understand and work with. It means the agency needs to be flexible, super efficient, and create new processes that allow time to be spent in the places that really matter.

What are you most looking forward to in 2024?

I always answer this the same way, because it’s always the creative work. Making exciting, innovative, business-changing creative work is the whole reason we exist, and it’s still the most motivating thing for everyone in the business, from the IT technician to the CCO.

As we grow, I’m also looking forward to meeting and working with new talent. Another great thing about agency life is that you can continually be stimulated and have your mind opened by new and differently smart people. Diversity of thinking always makes the work better.

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

Same as last year – I’m desperate for our whole industry to feel more confidence. I do think that confidence is growing, and there’s been some really good work this year particularly using humour to stand out. I know we are all highly competitive with each other, but the truth is that the more of us that are successful, the more the whole industry rises up.

Creative Salon on TBWA\London's 2023

There was another injection of fresh talent into TBWA\London in 2023 as CEO Larissa Vince, CCO Andy Jex and CSO Sandie Dilger, alongside chief production officer Melody Sylvester, continued their process of reinvigorating the shop.

Jex brought in Paul Jordan, formerly of BBC Creative, Engine and McGarrybowen, to increase the agency's creative firepower, while Lisa Pilbeam Clarke joined from Accenture Song as director of brand and new business. As a consequence the agency's bench looks stronger.

The agency's creative output has also benefitted - its 'True Originals' spot and brand platform for McVitie's gave the biscuit brand an interesting new positioning to build on, while the mockumentary-style 'Taste the Effort' allowed Jex and his team to exercise their funny bone. Its global work for brands including Adidas also showed the great breadth of output the agency is now capable of.

The Adidas campaign is dedicated to next gen icons Alessia Russo, Lena Oberdorf and Mary Fowler and looks to drive more global attention for the game and inspire other young women and girls to follow in their footsteps.

The Ginsters mockumentary used humour but for a very serious purpose - it focuses on highlighting the quality of the ingredients within a Ginsters pasty to tackle the misconception that it is a low-quality cold snack to be eaten on the go.

TBWA\London has shown that it can move between the funny and the serious effortlessly. The fact that both Ginsters and McVitie's were scored as two of the top five ads that resonated the most in the month they were released by System1 shows that they are hitting the spot with the public too.

To add to this, the agency rounded the year up by winning an impressive hat-trick of major global awards in just one week. The shop showcased its creative chops and strategic skills by winning a Gold Effie in the Food and Beverage category at the 2023 Effie Awards Europe for its ‘Cheddar Town’ campaign for Pladis brand Mini Cheddars. It also claimed the two Sport Grand Clio’s for its Adidas ‘The Official Leak of the World Cup Kits’ work.

Creative Salon Says: Seeing TBWA\London producing excellent domestic campaigns, alongside those for its internationally-aligned clients, shows how far the agency has come in a relatively short period of time under its new and fresh leadership team. Vince is a thoroughly forward-looking and formidable CEO; Jex remains one of the UK's most accomplished creative leaders, and Dilger has really come into her own as a clear-eyed and innovative strategic thinker. TBWA\London has got its voice back and is starting to make some noise.


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