Last week saw the publication of the 2016 edition of Econsultancy’s Top 100 Digital Agencies Report.

A report which, by its nature, features the largest, most established and successful digital agencies in the UK, the Top 100 also features a number of the little guys.

These upstarts are potentially destined to be vying for the ranking’s top spots in the years to come.

This year we featured seven agencies in this ‘Ones to Watch’ section of the report, all editorially selected based on factors like fee income growth, client wins, and innovative or successful projects over the past 12 months.

For each of these rising stars, I’ve featured below a significant project from the last year, to give a flavour of the projects they are working on.

In no particular order...

Engage

One of two agencies named as so in the report, Engage is a Yorkshire-based agency delivering digital strategy for UK brands and has grown significantly in the last year in terms of both income and headcount. 

The project: Jet2holidays Advent Calendar

Jet2holidays wanted to give away 26 package holidays, one each day running up to Boxing Day, with a twist on the traditional advent calendar.

The experience build was entirely mobile-first, using SVGs (Scaleable Vector Graphics) to eliminate any impact on quality or page load times.

Players were given three chances to win a prize each day, with built-in logic to keep track of plays, repeat plays, wins, losses and shares etc.

The campaign was enhanced with an offline presence – a Gingerbread Lady mascot, ‘Holi’, to anthropomorphize a Christmas treat, but also to give the experience some personality.

Holi was then sent off on a number of Jet2holidays flights.

3D promotional video reels were produced to advertise the app across YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. 

The whole campaign was taken from brief to live in a matter of weeks and achieved great results, achieving over 1.5m plays, and an 18% YOY rise email sign-ups.

AB… the ideas agency

Proving that an old dog can learn new tricks, AB was established in 1983 and has shown significant recent growth, with six staff hired over the last 12 months to strengthen the agency's digital and creative offering.

Based in the south-west of England, AB punches above its weight, with clients based in Australia, the Americas and Israel.

The project: #MadeForGirls – The Maynard School

The Maynard School is one of the UK’s oldest all-girl schools. It appointed AB to produce an integrated advertising campaign to promote the benefits of the school, turning single-sex education into a virtue.

The campaign included cinema advertising to demonstrate gravitas and confidence in the brand alongside print and posters designed to target commuters.

It also ran through digital channels including search, social and affiliates, targeted by demographics, encouraging parents to attend the school’s open morning.

The campaign generated real results – 70+ new students showed interest in attending the school, with the video garnering 21,000 views on YouTube and an uplift in awareness in the south-west.   

Exposure Digital

Exposure Digital was born out of its parent PR agency, and approaches briefs with a focus on generating earned media and a trusted connection with target consumers.

By working in collaboration with influential people online, the agency aims to create ideas that genuinely affect people. 

The project: Thomson Cruises (#NotForMe)

Exposure was approached by Thomson Cruises to help solve a problem that’s affecting the whole industry: people think going on a cruise means being trapped on a boat with old people and rubbish buffets.

The agency was challenged with finding a way to get the public coveting cruises without even realising it. The solution was #NotForMe. 

The campaign kicked off by sending a series of influential Instagrammers and Vloggers to experience a Thomson Cruise, with one catch. They couldn’t let on to their followers that they were on a cruise. 

The influencers shared the views, local food, wildlife and people that they met, without ever showing a cruise ship, before revealing the fact after the trip, all using the hashtag #NotForMe.

Months of activity is still in the pipeline, but client TUI has been extremely happy with the results so far. 

The Unit

The Unit is a full-service design and build agency that focuses on innovation, creativity, user experience and digital transformation.

Founded in 2006, The Unit uses a user-centred design process that helps agencies to evolve, grow and launch their next-generation customer propositions.

The agency has seen significant growth this year, expanding the team and moving to new offices with user testing labs and viewing rooms.

The project: Fidelity International Limited – website design and development

The challenge was to rapidly develop and launch a beta website that would attract young digital-savvy customers to invest with Fidelity’s personal investment products. 

The company had also identified the need for a multichannel transformation away from the traditional product-led approach to a clear and concise audience-based strategy.

Working closely with stakeholders, The Unit used user-centric design, development and content strategy in a dedicated, collaborative space at Fidelity.

It gained an understanding of the business and audience through research sessions and stakeholder interviews, and deployed a mobile-first phase-one prototype.

Fidelity has seen a 20% uplift in conversions coming from mobile since the launch of the beta site.

UXB London

UXB was founded in 2009 and has since acquired an impressive roster of clients including PepsiCo, BUPA and Willmott Dixon.

The agency’s user-centred methods deliver better digital products, services and customer experiences and pave the way for digital transformation.

The project: Audience Finder

Originally conceived by the Audience Agency, Audience Finder uses box office data, which is cross-referenced with wider demographic profiling, to provide meaningful insights for the arts market.

Based on a prototype, UXB was tasked by Audience Agency to fully develop the Audience Finder tool, defining what it would be and how that would impact on the business.

With the Arts Council's funding for the tool due to be reduced, UXB also needed to find a way to make the product pay.

In collaboration with the client, UXB developed a freemium model of Audience Finder, so it was free to use but with specialist services incurring a charge.

This was a fundamental change and called for a rethink of the organisation's business model. UXB mapped out the entire business and made recommendations based on its findings.

What stood out was the need to bring the consultancy service and Audience Finder tool together.

This insight enabled the design of both The Audience Agency website and Audience Finder, forming a holistic and intuitive user experience.

The results?

  • 300% increase in lead generation.
  • 13% increased turnover, with 35% less budget.
  • The transformation of the business to become digitally-focused.

383

383 is a digital studio that works with its clients to bring transformational propositions, products and services to market at the speed of a startup.

The agency is highly visible in the digital industry, running a series of thought leadership events and conferences, and working on design and build projects with international clients.

The project: HomeServe

HomeServe engaged 383 to design a customer experience that not only better served its existing customer base, but also helped to reach new ones.

The agency worked with HomeServe to re-imagine three customer journeys:

1. Home assistance: After customer insight research, 383 developed a new mobile product that allows customers to talk to an expert, diagnose common issues, make a claim and book and track an engineer right from their smartphone or tablet.

2. Connected home technology: Working with Tado, a smart thermostat manufacturer, 383 designed an experience to help users not only remotely diagnose boiler and heating issues but also book a HomeServe engineer through the Tado app whether or not they were an existing policyholder.

3. Landlord property management: Using HomeServe's existing call centre and engineer network, 383 validated a new business model and engineered a new product that allows landlords to register and manage their properties online, and re-directs tenant enquiries into HomeServe to use their engineers to make repairs.

The Results:

The HomeServe project resulted from a 383 service called Future Vision Videos - a rapid two-week sprint process that incorporates experience design, storyboarding, production and post production, to turn a proposed customer experience into a compelling two-minute film. 

In the last 12 months 383 has used Future Vision Videos to help corporate entrepreneurs at places like Hilton and HomeServe get the green light for completely new innovation projects, or unlock further budget on an existing product roadmap.

Engage

Last but not least, the second agency named Engage in the report is a Northern Ireland-based company that launches multichannel, multidevice campaigns for clients across Ireland and mainland UK.

The agency has a performance-driven approach, first defining the business need and then building a digital roadmap covering strategy, design, creative and optimisation. 

The project: Power NI

The NI Energy sector is newly competitive, and Power NI wanted to reward loyal customers with an engaging, valuable online experience that would ensure they remained loyal, and to help attract new customers.

Engage worked with Power NI to engage with its various customer groups, analysing behavioural and transactional data and creating a series of personas which were representative of the customer and their needs.

A user-centric website was created that guides customers through energy plan selection, whilst cross-selling other services.

Engage has provided the Power NI team with more than 60 page and block types for optimum flexibility.

Results included a 25% increase in pageviews, 36% increase in pages per session and a 49% increase in conversion rate.

Amy Rodgers

Published 4 July, 2016 by Amy Rodgers

Amy Rodgers is a Research Analyst at Econsultancy. You can find Amy on Google+

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