campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 23 October 1998 12:00AM
A COLLECTION OF ESSENTIAL BUT USELESS BMP TRIVIA
BMP’s first showreel was actually Pritchard Wood’s - with John Webster’s
BMP tea ladies have always been a legend in their own, er, tea-break.
Pat McLaughlan, who ran the trolley in the 80s, was an assiduous buyer
of shares before the agency went public. When it did, in 1983, they were
worth pounds 13,700. The current tea lady, Mary O’Tea, was a member of
Campaign’s 30-year fantasy agency.
Stanley Pollitt was at one time media director of Pritchard Wood as well
as research director. Not a lot of people know that.
BMP once wanted to film two trolleys of gold bars - worth approximately
pounds 90 million - for an Alliance & Leicester ad. Not surprisingly,
the Bank of England refused to lend the gold. Searching for an
alternative, BMP discovered that Harrods gold-wrapped praline chocolate
made an acceptable substitute. It bought 1,000 boxes at pounds 8 a box.
The chocolate was given to St Ormond’s Street Hospital afterwards.
In the 70s, the myth grew up that BMP hired staff on the basis of their
cricketing ability - a myth based on the fact that Stanley Pollitt and
John Webster were cricket fanatics. The creative department once ran a
job ad saying ’Wicketkeeper wanted. Copywriting skills an asset.’
Notwithstanding Stanley Pollitt’s 60-a-day habit, BMP pitched for the
then Health Education Council’s anti-smoking account. Pollitt was
prevailed upon to abstain during the pitch, but like all addicts
temporarily deprived of their fix, he drank copious amounts of water. So
great was his need that by the end of the meeting he was drinking
straight from the jug - thus demonstrating the need for such a campaign.
Needless to say, BMP didn’t win the pitch.
Billco boss Bill Lea has two of the world’s largest collection of
obscure ephemera: sickbags and prostitute’s telephone-box advertising
cards. Lea also was once arrested and spent two nights in Harrow Green
police station for screening ’pirated’ videos in the in-house cinema.
Charges were subsequently dropped.
Tonto, Arkwright’s acrobatic dog in the much-loved John Smith’s ’two
words’ ad, was actually called Becky. Unfortunately Becky/Tonto refused
to stand on her/his front legs for the key tricks sequence in the
commercial. The production company, Park Village, had to get a false
pair of legs made instead.
Although it was never written about, in 1980 Saatchi & Saatchi
approached Martin Boase about a possible takeover. At the time, Allen
Brady and Marsh was in the ascendancy, and the idea was to put together
a serious counterweight. Boase and the other BMP shareholders turned the
offer down. Unabashed, Saatchis then returned and offered Boase
chairmanship of the agency on his own.
BMP staff voted the Guardian’s ’Points of View’ ad their all-time
favourite. However, the ad, which was inspired by the way different
newspapers interpreted the sinking of the Belgrano, originally started
off as a street fight. In the first script a black teenager is screaming
on the ground. Next we see a policeman standing over him wielding a
truncheon. When the camera pulls back we see the policeman is trying to
protect the black youth from a white skinhead. ’As you can imagine,’
says Webster, ’this ad was turned down for approximately five hundred
A 1991 issue of BMP’s house magazine, the Bridge, featured a
question-and-answer session with John Webster. To the question ’what
clothes do you feel most comfortable in?’ Webster was photographed
sitting on a sofa drinking a cup of tea - wearing a dress. In the same
interview Webster claimed the ’best decision’ he ever made was ’turning
down an lbw appeal against Geoff Boycott when he was batting for BMP’.
Boycott, he said, was probably out but went on to make 98.
Planning supremo Paul Feldwick won the BRAD Advertising Mastermind
challenge in 1981- which won’t surprise anyone who knows him. What will
is the fact that in 1982 he recorded a song called Lunchtime Love Affair
under the name Paul Feldwick and the Cartoons.
Mike Greenlees, now president of the sister Omnicom network, TBWA
Worldwide, acquired the nickname ’Legsy’ when a letter arrived for him
at BMP addressed to ’Mr Greenlegs’.
A survey of BMP staff produced a list of the agency’s biggest turkeys.
The list was topped by the ’Hitchhiker’ ad for Foster’s starring Burt
Lancaster in a reprise of his Texan millionaire role in Local Hero.
Second came a less well-known ad for Geest in which Michael Elphick
invited viewers to ’unzip a banana’. On reflection, many BMP staff
thought the banana ad was significantly worse.
Art director Dave Christensen was once famously fired as part of an
economy measure. But he refused to leave, kept turning up to work
without pay and was eventually rehired.
The wooden bannister leading from the front door to BMP’s reception cost
pounds 25,000 to make in 1971. It was so expensive - the Pentagram
designer, Theo Crosby, insisted it could only be made from thousands of
small bits of wood stuck together - that the agency nearly had to make
redundancies as a result.
One for the anoraks: in its time, BMP has proved a more fertile breeding
ground for staff going on to launch their own start-ups than any other
agency. One theory is that they find it easier to start their own
agencies than to work somewhere else. In no particular order they
include: Geoff Howard-Spink; Mike Greenlees and Dave Trott; Tim Delaney;
Leslie Butterfield, Michael Hockney and Derek Day; Alan Tilby and Paul
Leeves; Jane Newman; Graham Collis; Graham Rose and John Hackney; Jon
Madell and Hamish Pringle; Barnaby Spurrier; Damian O’Malley; Derek
Morris, Andy Tilley and Ivan Pollard; Adam Lury; Gary Duckworth; Leon
Jaume; and Charlie Robertson.
George the Hofmeister Bear was originally a vertically challenged
ex-circus performer called Ivan who became an alcoholic and was replaced
by a woman. George, of course, went on to become a male boozer’s
The Honey Monster once starred in his own panto, the Yellow Welly Show,
at the end of Bournemouth Pier.
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk