School Report

Another mixed year for Bartle Bogle Hegarty, but one that started with a bang: Tesco moved its £110 million business into the agency without a pitch... Read more

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Agency history

Bartle Bogle Hegarty was born out of a strong sense of grievance and into an advertising environment that had reached a perfect stage in its evolution to enable such a fresh-thinking new arrival to thrive.

Launched in 1982 and fully owned by Publicis Groupe since 2012, it ranks as one of the world’s most-lauded creative agencies with a reputation for stylish, elegant and original output, embracing such iconic work as Levi’s “launderette” and Audi’s Vorsprung Durch Technik.

Yet its inception owes much to the frustrations of its founders, John Bartle, Nigel Bogle and John Hegarty, the core management team at the London office of TBWA in the 70s.

Although the office was doing well, the trio felt TBWA’s board was not sufficiently rewarding their achievements.

“We said: ‘This isn’t working – we want a bigger share in our own office’s profits’,” Hegarty later recalled. “But they told us to fuck off. So we did.”

The personal chemistry between Bartle, whose understanding of business issues extended well beyond advertising, Bogle, the consummate account man, and Hegarty, one of adland’s greatest-ever creatives, was to prove the bedrock of BBH’s success.

What’s more, the circumstances were right for the fledgling BBH to make its mark. For one thing, there was no need for heavy investment in new technology, allowing agencies such as BBH to launch at minimal cost.

For another, advertisers were less nervous about going with start-ups because they could often switch seamlessly to agency principals already highly experienced on their accounts. Few current newcomers could match the flying start of BBH, which landed Audi, Whitbread and Levi’s within 12 weeks of its launch.

That’s not to suggest that BBH came risk-free. “We were leaping into the dark,” Bartle remembers. “We had no business, we’d vowed that we wouldn’t do creative pitches and our houses were on the line. A lot of people forget that.”

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