School Report

It's fitting that among the most interesting bits of work TBWA\London created in 2015 was a painted boathouse floating down the Thames. The agency has promised a makeover over the past couple of years but real change is still bobbing out of reach... Read more

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Perhaps the pivotal moment in the history of TBWA\London was when the management team that launched it in 1973, disenchanted that their work was being inadequately rewarded, quit to do their own thing. Their names? John Bartle, Nigel Bogle and John Hegarty.

History may judge that TBWA’s London operation – Campaign’s Agency of the Year in 1981 – was never quite the same since its star trio left.

Indeed, the network whose modus operandi is based on disruption – the brainchild theory of the TBWA Worldwide chairman, Jean-Marie Dru, built around shattering conventions that get in the way of creative thinking – has seen no greater disruption than at its London outpost.

London’s most recent history has been a sorry saga of revolving-door management, account losses and an indifferent record of trying to “buy” growth and creative potency.

It’s all a far cry from TBWA’s roots in 1970 when Bill Tragos, an American of Greek descent, Claude Bonnange, a Frenchman, Uli Wiesendanger, a Swiss, and Paolo Ajroldi, an Italian, vowed to establish TBWA as the first European agency network.

The four, who had worked together at Young & Rubicam France, planned to set up in Paris but open offices around Europe. The first was in Frankfurt, the second in London.

Hegarty’s appointment guaranteed that TBWA\London would be creatively successful, but his departure along with his associates was the precursor of troubled times.

In a move not short of irony, Europe’s first agency network was bought in 1990 by the US-based Omnicom, which merged it with its newly acquired Chiat/Day. This provoked uproar in the UK where Chiat/Day’s London staff refused to be part of TBWA. They bought themselves out to form St Luke’s.

In 2008, an embarrassing failed attempt to acquire Beattie McGuinness Bungay (home of its famous former creative chief Trevor Beattie) seemed symbolic of how much work the agency needed to do to restore its old sureness of touch.

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