the showcase 2023

How To Be Big and Great: VCCP's 2023

The agency ticked every box and topped the UK billings chart - it's easy to see why

By creative salon

In 2023 VCCP - the original challenger agency for challenger brands - marked its 21st anniversary by being unveiled as the biggest agency in the UK in terms of billings - according to Nielsen figures, these had increased by a whopping 34 per cent year on year.

This comes as no surprise, given the sheer amount of campaigns the agency has produced in 2023, its new-business prowess, and its motto "it only works if it all works", which is underpinned by the most comprehensive suite of specialisms in the market.

VCCP has truly cemented its reputation as a creative machine, unveiling innovative campaigns for the likes of Cadbury, Walkers, Transport for London, O2, Virgin Media and Domino's. To top this off VCCP's new business drive continued unabated and the agency launched several specialist divisions, furthering its fully integrated offerings for brands.

We caught up with VCCP chief strategy officer Michael Lee to explore the agency’s successes this year.

Michael Lee, Chief Strategy Officer at VCCP, on the agency's 2023:

What three words would you use to describe 2023?

Disruptive, exciting, exhausting.

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

Cadbury’s goes from strength to strength as our creative team continues to create work that wins the hearts of the general public and also the creative juries and the effectiveness awards. Plus it’s been brilliant to get recognition from the likes of Mark Ritson, who said: “If you do seek new creative, then do it the Cadbury way, with a variation on a theme that can run for years, probably decades. Choose that option over a single, more successful orphan campaign, because in the long run it will serve your brand better.”

Our portfolio of work for the brilliant Mark Anthony Brands continues to grow, in the space of two clients it’s gone from one brand in White Claw to 14. Not only have we just done four global product launches, but we’ve also created packaging and design, product naming and entire brand ecosystems. They are a tremendously exciting challenger business to work with, constantly innovating in the drinks category, and we love working with them.

Then we launched faith back in May, our AI creative agency, which garnered a lot of positive media attention, and has allowed us to be a leading voice in the industry conversation around the creative opportunity and the responsibility and ethics side of the debate. More importantly, it has massively accelerated our collective learning of Generative AI’s potential, and we’ve been able to work with a large number of our clients putting those learnings into practice. 

What one thing are you proudest of this year?

Given that we didn’t really have a master plan when VCCP Stoke launched back in October 2021, I’m really proud that VCCP Stoke goes from strength to strength and hit a really impressive milestone last month - we’ve delivered more than 10,000 hours of high quality and inspiring work experience to young people in Stoke. This is a result of more than 150 employees in VCCP getting involved to give their time and pass on their experience through our various work experience courses and activities. 

And what’s been your biggest challenge?

The uncertainty of the year has meant that budgets and plans constantly change course on a regular basis, but these are very much circumstances way beyond anything we can control! 

What are you most looking forward to in 2024?

We are really looking forward to producing our first work for our client Allwyn, who are taking over the licence for The National Lottery. We love our fabric of the nation brands and The National Lottery is definitely one of the best out there. 

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

If I may be permitted to bang the drum for what we’ve been doing at the APG (Account Planning Group) - our work to improve the recruitment and retention of employees from under-represented groups has been a triumph of collaboration between many senior people at many agencies who constantly compete directly against each other. I know it’s one giant Hunger Games contest out there, but we all benefit from widening our talent pool, so let’s see some more of that cross-agency collaboration in 2024!

Creative Salon on VCCP’s 2023

2023 saw VCCP produce an impressive raft of integrated campaigns, ranging from tongue in cheek brand platforms like its ‘Bust’ campaign for Tango, to powerful pieces of work such as its ‘Here for Humanity’ campaign for the British Red Cross, which shone a light on its humanitarian efforts in the UK and around the world in an attempt to drive brand consideration among new donors.

The creative powerhouse developed a host of campaigns for Cadbury, which despite being owned by multinational food company Mondelez managed to exude the British sentiment at the heart of the much loved brand for all of its campaigns. Most notably, its 'garage' and ‘speakerphone’ spots truly encapsulated the ‘There’s a glass and a half in everyone’ brand idea.

The agency also produced online and out-of-home illustrations and audio ads for the chocolate brand, as well as a nationwide competition entitled ‘The Big Win-Win’ which put local corner shops in the spotlight. The festive season also witnessed the return of Cadbury Coins.

Talking of Mondelez, VCCP unveiled a multi-channel campaign for Ritz, ‘Ready when you aren’t’, which hoped to ‘tantalise’ the taste buds of people up and down the UK and also cement itself as a delicious snack that can be consumed on any occasion.

VCCP also produced inventive pieces of work for some of the UK’s biggest brands including ‘Switch Up’ for O2, ‘Goat Glider’ for Virgin Media, ‘Tearing Loved Ones Apart Since 1985' for Domino’s and ‘We love potatoes, so you can love Walkers’ for Walkers.

For Müller, a brand VCCP London has worked with for 11 years, the agency produced three films for Müller Rice, Müller Corner and Frijj milkshakes, all lying under the masterbrand positioning ‘Love every bit’. According to both parties, the purpose of the ad-blitz was to establish Müller as a ‘fabric of the nation’ brand.

On top of this, VCCP Blue introduced a wombat into what is arguably one of the most famous brand platforms in the country - Compare the Market, creating ‘Don’t Wombat It, Meerkat It’.

2023 was another strong new business year, with the agency winning the Nutribullet account, Krispy Kreme’s media account, the global Primark business and both Wilkinson Sword and Bulldog’s media accounts. And though Nationwide left the agency following the arrival of a new CMO at the building society, VCCP triumphed in the long-winded pitch for the new National Lottery provider Allwyn, picking up the Lotto brief.

The UK’s largest creative shop also launched a brand and employee engagement division, VCCP BEE, expanded its in-house creator offer, launched ‘Calico’ to revolutionise its market research operations and expanded its digital and innovation company Bernadette into Czechia.

To add to this, VCCP acquired Cowry Consulting, one of the world’s leading Behavioural Science consultancies, in a bid to put behavioural insight and data at the heart of its business model. Most recently, the agency launched an integrated brand campaign in partnership with Cowry Consulting titled 'Cigarette Butts are Rubbish' for Keep Britain Tidy.

Creative Salon says: Becoming the UK's biggest agency in its 21st anniversary year is of course testament to the size, scale and - crucially - the quality of creative capabilities VCCP has to offer. Under the steer of probably the strongest bench of top talent in the market - including founders Charles Vallance and Adrian Coleman, global CCO Darren Bailes, VCCP Partnership CEO Michael Sugden, VCCP CEO Andrew Peake, CSO Michael Lee, international CEO Julian Douglas, global chief growth officer and CEO EMEA Stephanie Brimacombe, and on and on - the VPPC group can truly partner clients to solve any business challenge.

But that 'challenger agency' DNA still shines bright - there's nothing complacent about VCCP, this is a properly driven business. Which means we can expect even more from VCCP in 2024.


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