TOP EUROPEAN AGENCIES: Hot shopping - Which independent ad agencies top the global networks’ wish-lists? Karen Yates gives the low down on her top four

By KAREN YATES,, Friday, 09 July 1999 12:00AM



S,C,P,F would appear to be one of Spain’s ripest plums and ready for

picking. For the past three years, it has been scooping awards at all

the best competitions. In the past 12 months, BMW, Pepsi and Adidas have

joined the client list, and the fledgling agency has pushed out of its

Barcelona base to open an office in Madrid.

It is surprising that S,C,P,F is still independent: it’s not as though

the major networks haven’t been snooping around. The likes of Grey, WPP

and BBDO are all said to have been in talks at one stage or another. And

there is not a particularly fierce resistance to international links, as

all three of S,C,P,F’s remaining founders are well acquainted with the

way multinationals work.

Toni Segarra, the gifted and anarchic creative director, Ignasi Puig,

the managing director, and Luis Cuesta, the president, broke away

together from Delvico Bates. So they are clear about what internationals

offer in terms of money and international clients. They are, however,

equally conversant with what they can take away, such as independence

and freedom from bureaucracy.

S,C,P,F is an informal maelstrom, where the idea is king. To outsiders,

its offices looks like a chaotic, decaying, turn-of-the-century

apartment crammed with 50 creatives from as far afield as Brazil and

Norway, who somehow turn concepts into stunning advertising. This is how

Segarra likes it, and he freely admits to hating the hierarchy of life

at a multinational.

Above all he’s a visionary. He wants to embrace all disciplines, not

just advertising. But this requires money, so the signing of an

international deal may be simply a matter of time.


To observers of the Cannes Festival, the name Forsman & Bodenfors means

the agency behind last year’s best Volvo commercial - the one where a

child, asked to depict a car, draws speed lines to represent the world

going by out of a Volvo window. In F&B’s home market of Sweden, the name

means the Lotto campaign that struck a chord when it depicted winners

taking no nonsense from anyone, even their bosses. To the multinational

networks, it means an irksome co-operative that simply won’t sell.

Now 13 years old, F&B has been turning suitors away since the 80s, and

it claims to be very happy as a spinster. Names like Volvo, Ikea and SCA

sit comfortably on its client list (F&B once actually resigned Volvo),

and the creative awards still keep rolling in, with more gold lions this


F&B is based in Sweden’s second city, Gothenburg, and it maintains only

a rarely manned satellite office in Stockholm. Its four founders are

still with the agency, as are many of its original clients, and

ownership is shared among 13 equal partners.

F&B’s philosophy remains constant: to do advertising based on strong

ideas, creating commercials that rely on a good story, well told. It

seems to have worked, as this year Volvo made F&B one of just two

agencies responsible for its worldwide marketing. As a result, F&B set

up an international division in April.


Callegari Berville is France’s largest independent agency. Housed,

literally, in a grand residence in Paris’ 17th arrondissement, it prides

itself on having no particular trademark style, or as its new-business

mantra has it: ’We have as many styles as we have brands.’

Still fiercely independent after 12 years, the agency’s two founders,

Pierre Callegari and Pierre Berville, maintain that the agency’s success

demonstrates that its philosophy of ’creativity but only with the right

strategy’ is worth preserving. Both Pierres had been around the block a

couple of times before deciding to start up together, and a founding

principle of the agency is to offer only experienced staff to


Callegari, now the managing director, earned his spurs as a brand

manager at Philips, before joining Ted Bates and then DDB. The creative

director, Berville, cut his teeth at Ted Bates, followed by spells at


Both believe in hiring only professionals with at least eight years’

experience. They like to think of their account team, for example, as

consultants rather than client service directors.

Now with a staff of 85, Callegari Berville cites its client list as

evidence of the success of its policy of combining strategy, creativity

and experience.

And it does have some good brands on its roster, such as Electricite de

France, Stella Artois and the newly acquired Danone. Like other

middle-sized agencies, however, it has also lost accounts through

international alignments, notably the much-mourned Seat.


The question was which hot shop to choose from this, one of the world’s

most creative countries. The mould-breaking, uncompromisingly creative

KesselsKramer? A new venture started by the brilliant minds behind

Centraal Beheer’s world-famous ads, Schaeffer Wunsh Has? Or, our

eventual choice, the only agency of the three to have been set up by

both a suit and a creative, Ubachs Wisbrun?

A two-year-old agency that has already developed a strong international

feel to its ads, Ubachs Wisbrun is based in a large old hall with no

internal doors, and espouses such concepts as hot-desking and

non-advertising communications.

Yet it has a reputation for doing so without losing sight of its brand

or its client focus.

The two founders, Wim Ubachs (the creative director), and Ralph Wisbrun

(the managing director), both come from big agency backgrounds: Ubachs

from Saatchi & Saatchi and Wisbrun from PPGH/JWT. They have since been

joined by another two partners, again one from each side of the

advertising discipline. The result is an ideas-based environment where

staff keep their feet on the ground and create campaigns that slip

readily into the everyday language of the nation.

Perhaps the best example is a series of ads created for the Netherlands’

leading tour operator, Holland International, for whom the 23-strong

agency came up with the concept ’vitamin v’, as in vacation. The agency

is equally proud of stylish work for the Rover Group, while its main

hope at Cannes this year was for another key client, the insurance

company, Nationale-Nederlanden.

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