The Prolific North Top 50 Digital Agencies 2014

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by ohdigital


Top 50 Digital Agencies imageToday we unveil the Prolific North Top 50 Digital Agencies 2014, the definitive listing of the North's largest digital agencies spanning SEO and PPC, web, content, mobile and e-commerce.

The Top 50 Digital Agencies initiative follows on from the publication of our two ground-breaking  rankings published in 2013: the Prolific North Top 50 PR Agencies and the Prolific North Top 50 Integrated Agencies.

Prolific North would like to thank our two co-sponsors of the Top 50 Digital Agencies ranking: the commercial law firm Myers Lister Price and SEO agency Click Consult.

We will be working with Myers Lister Price and Click Consult to arrange a follow-up event to this initiative in June with the 140 or so digital agencies we have contacted during the course of our research.

If you are one of the 140 digital agencies, you will shortly be receiving an invite to this event.

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Unlike many agency rankings which rely on agencies submitting selected information about themselves or rankings which only include agencies who pay to be part of the selection process, the Prolific North ranking is wholly independent and is anchored on financial information taken from Companies House, supplemented by additional information from the agencies.


No table or ranking of any sector, particularly those relating to the creative, media and digital sectors, can be 100% guaranteed but we are confident that the ranking we have released today is the most credible and grounded analysis of digital agencies in the North that has ever been published.

There is only one other ranking, a national one, which we believe matches this ranking for quality of research but as that ranking of the top 100 digital agencies also includes the UK's leading plane manufacturer, the digital activities of one of the UK's top four accountants and several multinational integrated agencies, we fervently believe what we have produced is second to none in its accuracy.

Having said that, there are some notable names which are not included in the ranking - but there are valid reasons for their exclusion.

McCann Manchester and Home, the first and third largest agencies respectively in our Top 50 Integrated Agencies ranking, report that digital activity accounts for around a third of their total activities which makes them significant digital players. However, the digital ranking is intended to reflect agencies whose turnover is generated entirely or overwhelmingly from digital activities, so we are not double-counting agencies.

The Leeds digital agency Fusion, part of Principles, was ranked sixth in the Integrated table. Similarly, the Leeds agency Bloom increasingly positions itself as a digital agency but last autumn was keen to be seen as an integrated agency – and as such was included in the Integrated ranking.

One name whose absence may cause some comment is that of Reading Room. However, although the agency was indeed founded in Manchester and retains its registered office in the city, there are currently around 15 staff in the Manchester operation with the head office operations and senior management now moved to London with other more substantial operations in Australia and Singapore.

One agency which is not listed this year because it was only set up in April 2013 - and so has not filed any accounts for our researchers to pore over - is Active Win Media. The agency, run by Warren Jacobs and backed (and majority-owned) by the Done brothers (Betfred et al), is already up to over 40 staff and is a shoo-in for inclusion next year.

Steve Buchanan/iProspect Steve Buchanan/iProspect

And the final three agencies not included merit a special mention: iProspect, i-lab and MEC Interaction.

These three agencies, the first owned by Aegis and the latter two by WPP, are actually three of Google's biggest media partners nationally, billing north of £150m online between them.

However, as they were unable to submit balance sheet information or profits, we were reluctantly unable to include them without prejudicing the results of the other 140 digital agencies from whom we requested information. All three of these agencies run their specialist digital operations alongside their mainstream media buying operations in Manchester.

For the record, iProspect in Manchester has a turnover in excess of £70m and employs over 110 staff (more than doubling in one year). MEC Interaction employs  52 (up from 37 in January '13) while the i-lab operations of Mediacom North also account for around a third of the Manchester business, which employs over 160 staff.

Research methodology

Working together with Mustard Research, one of the UK’s leading independent research companies, and the financial reporting company fame BVD, we looked at the accounts of over 140 digital agencies which are either based in or have offices in the North, and we also asked the agencies themselves for supplementary financial and related data.

The initial long list was ultimately whittled down to the final 50 in this ranking.

Agencies were not offered the option to be included or not.

Prolific North and Mustard would like to thank all the agencies concerned, whether ultimately included or not, for their time and effort in helping us to compile this unique compilation and we look forward to new agency names joining the ranking next year – as is to be expected given the sector is so dynamic.

In order to secure the full and transparent co-operation of all the participants – not just those where we were able to secure full financial data – we agreed with those agencies filing abbreviated accounts that we would not disclose the financials of any company in the compilation. This allowed these agencies to submit to us accurate information about sales and profits but also enabled them to retain a degree of privacy about their financial affairs.

The algorithm employed by Mustard is weighted on turnover, balance sheet and/or shareholder funds, ptp, growth over the past two years and headcount.  Our information is not assessed over a given calendar year or period but simply reflects each company’s latest filed information. This does mean of course that an agency’s size and financial performance effectively take precedence over other factors such as expertise or specialisation.

Location and  context

Each of the three Top 50 rankings we have produced has shown a marked contrast in regional locations: the PR ranking was overwhelming dominated by Manchester while the Integrated ranking saw many more Yorkshire agencies among the top 50.

Craig Chalmers/founder, Sticky Eyes Craig Chalmers, founder of Stickyeyes

The digital ranking sees the top four spots occupied by Yorkshire agencies with several others represented and a handful from Newcastle. Overall however, agencies based in the North West account for around two thirds of the constituent 50.

The strength of Yorkshire agencies has much to do with the region's ongoing and historical strengths in direct response and mail order companies with their focus on ROI and measurement, two of digital's greatest commercial attributes.

The North West in total has a larger number of digital agencies and staff but certainly among the largest agencies, the leading Yorkshire agencies have substantial size and scale.

The four agencies at the top of our ranking have all established offices in London and in addition Epiphany has opened an office in Sydney, twentysix has further offices in New York and Singapore while Summit has operations in Prague and most recently Paris.

Google logoWe are also pleased that Google is partnering the Top 50 Digital Agencies feature as with our Integrated Agencies ranking and will be working alongside Prolific North and our sponsors to create and deliver the follow-up events to the two rankings.

In the meantime, please read, digest and perhaps even commission some work from these outstanding agencies!

(Update 18/3/14 - Epiphany acquired by Jaywing plc)

(Update 17/2/14 - Latitude's parent Callcredit acquired by GTCR)

(Update 13/2/14  - Digital Next acquires Just Search)




The Prolific North Top 50 Digital Agencies 2014

In association with commercial law firm Myers Lister Price and Click Consult, a digital agency with a focus on search marketing.

Myers Lister Price
Myers Lister Price
# Company Ownership Activity Head- count in the North Selection of clients
1 Stickyeyes
Independent Digital marketing 117 Hertz, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Hilton, TD Waterhouse, Claire’s (Accessories)
2 Epiphany
Independent Digital marketing 130 Sky Betting and Gaming, Tesco F&F, Kempinski, Agent Provocateur, Paul Smith,
3 Twentysix
Part of MSQ Partners Life online 99 P&G, Wella, Rackspace, TalkTalk, Silentnight, Cartoon Network
4 Summit Media
Willerby, Hull
Independent Retail digital engagement 108 Argos, BHS, Carpetright, Selfridges, 3, Homebase, Which
5 Code Computerlove
Independent Digital marketing 80 Oxfam, HMV, BBC Childrens, NUS, First TransPennine Express, Brother, Chester Zoo
6 Search Laboratory
Independent Search marketing 145 Mulberry, Barbour, Vistaprint, The Guardian, Debenhams, Volkswagen
7 Lakestar McCann
McCanns/ Interpublic Online marketing 55, Halfords, Harley Medical, Parcels2Go, Miller Homes
8 Rippleffect
Liverpool and Manchester
Trinity Mirror Digital agency 70 Novus Leisure (Late Night London and Tiger Tiger), Footasylum, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Runnymede Trust, Culture24, Visit Essex, Downing and Archives+.
9 Fuse8/delete
Independent Digital agency 74 Manchester City FC, Health Lottery, Red Bull, Alton Towers, Wrigleys, Soreen, Ikea, Specsavers
10 Latitude Digital Marketing
Callcredit Information Group Digital marketing 106 Get the label, Fitness First, Holiday Autos, Rowlands pharmacy, Anglian Home Improvements, Gladstone Brookes.
11 Mediaworks
Independent Digital agency 75 Eastern Airways, SCS, Vikings, Brantano, Jones, JulesB
12 Axonn Media
Independent Content marketing 69 Conlons & Son, Brookson, Zen Internet, Talk Talk Business, Age Partnership.
13 Amaze
Manchester, Liverpool
St Ives Group Digital marketing and technology consultancy 160 Lexus, Toyota, Unilever, ASICS.
14 Branded3
St Ives Group Search and digital 50 Virgin Holidays, BMW, Yorkshire Building society, Leeds City Museum, Carcraft, Phones 4U.
15 Click Consult
Independent Digital marketing and search 60 Virgin Balloons, Marlows, Landmark London, Peckforton Castle, Technical Foam Services, Phoenix.
16 Just Search
Macclesfield and Manchester
Get Updated SEO agency 60  
17 CSI Media
Independent Website design and devleopment 35 National Geographic, Citreon, Channel 4, Dell, ICE, Go Compare
18 Building Blocks
Independent Digital agency 60 BT, Regus, Macmillan, GE, Butlins, Warner Leisure Hotels.
19 Mando
Independent Online applications 55 Talk talk, Bentley, United Utilities, Marks and Spencer, Jones Lang LaSalle.
20 Fat Media
Independent Website designers and developers 62 Warburtons, Gambleaware, HSS Hire, Servisair, Royal Northern College of Music
21 CTI Digital
Independent Digital agency 35 Travelodge, British Land, British Council, NHS
22 Response Tap
Independent + private equity Call tracking 55 Nuffield Health, Bristish gas, Aviva, Wickes, Eurocamp, Farleys
23 RE:Systems
Bakewell, Manchester
Independent Digital communications 33 Stansted Express, EDF, BT London Live, Skanksa, Old school ties
24 Apadmi
Independent Mobile technology and marketing 55 BT, BBC, Aviva, Sky scanner, The Carphone Warehouse, The X Factor
25 New Mind
Independent e-tourism solutions 32 Love Weston, Isle of Wight, Visit Harrogate, Visit Bergen, Outdoor capital of the UK
26 Fast Web Media
Independent Digital marketing 24 BBC Sport, Fontem Ventures, NEC Group
27 The E-Word
Independent Search marketing 32 Betfred, Bruntwood, Parasol, Manchester Airport, Trolex, Kerching
28 Mediaburst
Independent Mobile marketing 14  
29 I-Com
Independent Creative digital agency 38 I love to love, The Smile Centre, Carrs solicitors, JMW, Magnus Partnerships, McHale & Co
30 Orange Bus
Independent Digital agency 32 Teachers pension, Pearson, Phillips, SCS, Trylife, Sage
31 Blueleaf
Independent Web design and development 24 Red Bull, Graham and Brown, Diners Card
32 Ampersand
Independent Open source ecommerce agency 27 Harvey Nichols, Bensons for Beds, Poundland, SKINS, End Clothing
33 Numiko
Independent Digital agency 27 Design Council, EHRC, CRUK digital roster, Channel 4, Just Giving
34 Online Ventures
Independent Creative marketing agency 26 Tesco, Microsoft, Lipsy, Air Charter Service, Serco, Thomas Cook
35 Clicky Media
Independent Digital marketing 30 NHS, Sony, 4 learning, Olympus, IBM, Microsoft
36 Magnetic North
Independent Digital design 25 Manchester City Council, Channel 4, Radioplayer and BBC Radio 2 projects
37 KMP Digitata
Independent E-business applications 20 Sue Ryder, ASDA, Manchester Airport, Nokia, NUS, Teenage Cancer Trust
38 Silverbean
Independent Inbound marketing agency 30 Lifecraft, Marc B, Austin Reed, Stadium Power, Danone, Lulu Guinness,
39 RO Eye
Independent Performance Marketing Agency 10 Colonial Gifts (iFlorist and iHampers), Express Trainers
40 Cube 3
Independent Integrated digital marketing agency 26 Inventive Leisure (Revolution bars), Cash Generator, Hotel La Tour, Red Hot World Buffet, ANS Group, Novus Leisure
41 Prodo Digital
Independent Digital marketing agency 40 Homeserve, New York Times and Boots
42 Enjoy Digital
Independent Digital agency 24 Park Leisure, Bradley Street, Leeds City College, Leeds College of Art, Northumbria University’s, JLA
43 Return on Digital
Independent Digital marketing agency 25 WD40, Assos, Izzywotnot & ClinK Hostels
44 Webtise
Independent Website designers and developers 25 Peggy Porschen, Oddbins, 37 South, Tactus, Vintage Styler, NCF furnishings
45 Headland
Independent Web design solutions and e-marketing   Santander, Alton Towers, The Law Society, Snowdome, Axa, Smartaid
46 Carpe Diem
Independent Creative digital design agency Autotrader, New Balance, Ossur, GSK internal, Asics, Transform Cosmetic Group
47 Livelink
Independent Digital agency 24 Manchester United, Warburtons, Weber Shandwick
48 HMA Digital Marketing
Independent Website design 20 Management School Gateway, the Centre of Assistive Technologies and Connected Healthcare, Magnesium Elektron, St Paul’s Developments PLC and Echo Barrier
49 Hit Search
Independent Digital marketing agency  16 NHS, Sherunsheruns, National Railway Museum, Knowsley Safari Park, ALFA, V&A, Blossom.
50 Mosquito Digital
Independent Digital agency    Cambridge University Press, British Nutrition Foundation, Frontier Agriculture, Living Streets, LF Beauty

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