Apple Slides in Survey of Clients That Agencies Most Want to Work With

Nike on Top; Colgate, Reckitt Among Those at Bottom

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Which clients do senior talent from the world's leading creative agencies most want to work with? Nike -- for a second consecutive year -- was the benchmark for marketing excellence, according to a study by The Talent Business.

Google, Volkswagen, Adidas, Apple and Coca Cola remained in the top six. On the other end of the spectrum, the worst performers for 2013 were Loreal, Kellogg, General Motors, GlaxoSmithKline, Reckitt Benckiser and Colgate. That latter bunch was consistently among the weakest performers on a list of attributes that asked respondents to assess clients based on their repuation for collaborative working, excellence of their marketing team, ability to produce award-winning creative work and being socially responsible.

A total of 330 CEOs, managing directors, creative directors and heads of planning globally participated in the study. It was once again fielded by indie research firm Bonamy Finch in the U.K. and commissioned by The Talent Business, a recruiter of senior marketing and creative talent for agencies.

The goal was to draw responses from senior execs, so all the respondents had a base salary above $300,000. In addition to the aforementioned companies, the list of marketers to choose from included Honda, Procter & Gamble, Diageo, Pepsi, Unilever, McDonald's, American Express, Samsung, Visa, Mars, Bacardi, Microsoft, General Electric, Ford and Kraft. Three marketers -- Kellogg's, Mastercard and Nestle -- were added this year, while another three -- Johnson & Johnson, S.C. Johnson and Toyota -- were removed.

Apple Takes a Tumble

Although Apple still fared well overall, the biggest change in this year's top six saw Apple drop from second in 2012 to fifth this year. According to representatives of The Talent Business, it's a sign that Apple's reputation may be suffering in the wake of Steve Jobs' departure, given it's well known that he was extremely hands-on when it came to marketing. It was interpreted as a lack of excitement too about the freshness of Apple's product lineup.

Commented one respondent to the survey who is a senior planner in Germany: "I imagine there is no freedom to create new things. Everything is predefined."

On the whole though, the sentiment towards Apple as a company and client remains positive. Said one agency exec: "They produce ideas and products that inherently change the world and the way people live."

Nike's ability to remain the most desirable client to work with lies with the fact that its known to demand the best work from its agency partners. Said Gary Stolkin, global chairman and chief executive officer of The Talent Business, in a statement: "Nike continues to be seen as a trailblazer by creative agencies. It is head and shoulders above the rest, 76% of respondents valued it as very desirable and it led on six of the seven attributes."

Reputation Correlates to Quality of Talent

Why should marketers care what agencies think anyway? The Talent Business contends that the reputation in the global agency community impacts an agency's ability to recruit top talent to work on their accounts.

"Our aim was to understand how the world's most senior agency talent views the world's leading brand owners as clients, what drives them to work with a client, and if opinion has changed since our first tracking study," said Mr. Stolkin.

In addition to Apple, another significant mover on the list was Procter & Gamble.

P&G was ranked as noticeably more desirable than it was a year ago, increasing its position in the global survey from thirteenth to eighth. The packaged goods giant came out on top when rated on caring about social responsibility and second for having highly regarded marketing leaders. The improved reputation is independent from the return of CEO A.G. Lafley, as he rejoined the company just after this study was out in the field.

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