Our Story

Our Story

About PHD – Finding a Better Way

When David Pattison, Nick Horswell and Jonathan Durden launched Pattison Horswell Durden (PHD) in London in 1990, the agency was credited with inventing “creative media”. While competitors, like the newly launched Zenith, were all about buying clout, PHD’s proposition was for clients who valued prize strategy.

In PHD’s first press ads, the ambition was clear: this was an agency focused on unleashing creativity and fusing strategic planning with buying. An agency that thought before it bought. An agency that was about to unleash a new era of creative communications planning.

This planning led approach saw PHD pick up The Guardian Newspaper as its founding client, who still remains a client today. PHD’s first employee, Kate King, has also stayed with the network and is now Chief People Officer at our parent company, Omnicom Media Group.

Since then, the growth of PHD has been marked by a number of industry and media ‘firsts’ – from launching the first sponsorship, partnership and content agency called Drum in the UK in 1993, to creating the first newspaper to be published with no ads.

In 2002 PHD opened its first offices outside of the UK and over the next few years grew the international network, which today has over 80 offices worldwide. The formation of PHD’s parent company Omnicom Media Group in 2005 meant that PHD’s buying was now powered by one of the world’s largest media holding companies.

Clients could now benefit from PHD’s unique approach to media planning, without compromising on the buying.

Just as the founders blazed a strategic trail through the media agency landscape in 1990, PHD is today defining strategic communications planning on a global stage…

In 2012 PHD launched Source – a proprietary global operating system that connects PHD’s 3,000 planners through a gamified system. Employees from around the network are invited to crack client briefs and get rewarded with ‘pings’ to climb the global leaderboard. It’s allowed talent to shine and move around the network and, most crucially, its seen PHD appointed to the global business of some of the world’s major advertisers.

PHD’s specialism in global communications planning coupled with our Source platform has helped us attract business from the likes of Unilever, GSK and SC Johnson. PHD now handles the global communications planning accounts for these clients and as a result now has the world’s largest global strategy unit in the world, with over 60 people in London, New York and Singapore.

For over two decades, PHD has pick up awards for its innovative and creative media ideas, from Campaign Grand Prix’s to Cannes Lions. In the Gunn Report for Media 2014, PHD climbed to 3rd place for most awarded network in the world and two of the four most awarded campaigns in the world are from PHD. WARC’s ranking of 2014’s most effective campaigns in the world also sees PHD’s work for Unilever occupy the top two spots.

PHD’s heritage is unlike any other media agency network. From a radical challenger proposition that started in 1990’s London with a headcount of four, PHD’s unique positioning as a leader in creative communications planning has evolved globally and today we are over 3,000 employees in over 80 countries and work with some of the world’s largest advertisers.

PHD continues to keep the founding principles of innovation, creativity and thought-leadership alive and today our philosophy is best summed up as ‘finding a better way’.