Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO
Type of agency
Number of UK staff
Head of Studio Competitive Studio 71, London
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Is Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO the best UK agency of all time? Given the eclectic nature of its creative product and its unchallenged place at the top of the billings rankings for almost two decades, the argument is a compelling one.
Add to these its ability to seamlessly transfer managerial control from one generation to the next, its arrival on the world stage via a textbook 1991 merger with BBDO and its philosophy of always setting out to do the decent thing, and the case becomes almost overwhelming.
Certainly, no agency has ever been the personification of one person’s set of beliefs than AMV has been of its creative inspiration, David Abbott.
Such was the awe in which adland held Abbott’s genius that at his untimely death in May 2014, aged 75, the industry’s sadness was palpable.
But while it was Abbott who defined the agency creatively, the roots of its success are to be found in the very different characters of Abbott and his business partners, Peter Mead and Adrian Vickers, who opened the agency in 1977.
It seemed not to matter that Mead was the son of a Peckham window cleaner while Abbott and Vickers had studied at Oxford. They were drawn together by a common code of behaviour that transcended their backgrounds, a love of advertising and a paternal approach to their people.
That combination has been the catalyst for some of the finest advertising that ever emanated from a British agency. From the jaw-dropping Guinness “surfer” spot from 1999 to the endearing elderly fly fisherman, J R Hartley, who brought humanity to Yellow Pages, the celebrity recipe spots that helped rejuvenate Sainsbury’s and the multi-award-winning Economist posters.
It has certainly vindicated Mead, who recalls: “Back in 1977, we did not start out with any specific aspirations, except to want to be the best.”