Type of agency
Number of UK staff
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McCann Erickson’s London agency was born because one of its founding fathers struck oil more than a century ago.
The founder in question was Harrison McCann. The liquid gold was supplied by Standard Oil, the first client of the HK McCann Company when it opened for business on Broadway, New York, in 1912.
There was already a strong bond between adman and client. McCann had been Standard’s ad manager until the US government ordered that the petroleum giant be split up. As a result, HK McCann effectively became Standard’s ad department that serviced its disparate units.
And it was as HK McCann that a London agency was opened in 1927 initially to service Standard Oil, which was developing its business across major European markets. This was three years before the Depression was to force McCann to merge with another New York agency founded by Alfred Erickson. Thus McCann Erickson was born.
Today, the London office is very much at the heart of the UK agency establishment, the second-largest shop behind Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and forming the hub not just of McCann Erickson’s European network but of Britain’s biggest regional network.
For much of its life, though, the London office very much embodied the philosophy of Marion Harper, who succeeded McCann as the network’s boss with a mission to turn it into a well-oiled money-making machine that was later to become the engine room of Interpublic, which he established in 1961.
Harper felt advertisers should base their work on statistics rather than indulgent creativity, leading Mad Men’s Don Draper to dub McCann “a sausage factory”. And it’s fair to say that, despite its size and power, the creative output of the London office has been patchy and a reflection of a largely conservative roster of clients.