Campaign Supplement on BMP DDB 1968-1998: My Favourite TV Ads by Tony Cox

The year was 1989 and I was creative director of DDB. The job involved arriving late, planning where to have lunch, finding someone to have lunch with, eating lunch, arriving back after lunch and then realising it was time to go home. In those days, we knew the meaning of hard work and put all our energies into avoiding it.

The year was 1989 and I was creative director of DDB. The job

involved arriving late, planning where to have lunch, finding someone to

have lunch with, eating lunch, arriving back after lunch and then

realising it was time to go home. In those days, we knew the meaning of

hard work and put all our energies into avoiding it.



Then I got a call from John Webster. He said BMP was looking for a

creative director. It sounded terribly hard work, so of course I said

no. Then DDB merged with BMP and I ended up working for BMP anyway.



At the time BMP’s standards were impossibly high and unlikely to be

bettered, so the job of creative director was regarded as something of a

poisoned chalice. And as one of my friends said at the time, ’I don’t

see much sign of a chalice.’ Wasn’t this the agency, after all, which

had won more awards than any other agency in the entire history of

advertising?



I’ve discovered over the years, however, that BMP has a habit of

listening very carefully to what the creative director says and then

doing the exact opposite. So, no matter how hard I’ve tried to make

things worse by letting mediocre work out of the agency, I’ve been

thwarted at every turn and the creative standards have, despite my best

efforts, remained pretty much intact.



I’ve learned, however, that making great ads is easy. You simply discard

everything that’s good enough. I just wish it wasn’t such hard work.



Bachelors Mushy Peas ’Ode to a pea’ Nick Gill/Jo Wenley 1989



VW Passat ’God Bless the Child’ Tony Cox/Gary Betts/Malcolm Green



At the end of my first year as creative director of BMP, the agency won

both the 1989 D&AD silver television awards. ’Ode to a pea’ won the best

30-second TV award. And ’God Bless the Child’ won the best 60-second TV

award. The next day the Evening Standard ran a piece headlined, ’Boase

fulfils his promise’. It was followed by an article about how, despite

the many mergers and upsets of the previous year, BMP had retained its

creative standards. This was something of a relief since ’Ode to a pea’

was certainly not a better commercial than its nearest contender,

Maxell’s ’Into the Valley’, and ’God Bless the Child’had been dismissed

by both agency and client as an art school film rather than a proper

commercial.



Barclaycard ’Moscow’ Jon Mathews/Fraser Adamson 1991



Here’s the thing about humour: It doesn’t work when it’s almost

funny.



It doesn’t work when it’s meant to be funny and isn’t. And it doesn’t

work if it isn’t actually - this is the key - funny. ’Moscow’, from the

first of the Barclaycard series starring Rowan Atkinson is, to my mind,

a gem of comic writing, comic acting and comic timing. Funny, funny,

funny.



COI ’Mrs Dawson’ Paul Gay/Steve Reeves 1991



Before BMP won the Aids business, the advertising had put the fear of

death into people and had consequently failed dismally. We adopted a

more caring tone of voice in this commercial. It featured a a lady who

worked on the production line at a condom factory - Mrs Dawson - and

mused about how busy she’d been of late because of the renewed demand

for her wares.



Insightful and sensitive, the commercial introduced a gentle realism to

public service advertising.



Walkers Doritos ’Idents’ Richard Flintham/Andy McLeod 1996



This Doritos brief was at first glance the least promising in the agency

and I vividly recall how many creative teams were trampled in the rush

to avoid it. As luck would have it, however, our resident geniuses were

stealing every brief that came along at the time and this one ended up

on their pile along with all the others. The resulting campaign marked a

watershed not only in their careers but in BMP’s too. Richard and Andy

won their first D&AD television gold award in 1997. And BMP won its

second.



VW Passat ’Doors’ Richard Flintham/Andy McLeod/Nick Gill 1997



Richard and Andy again, this time aided and abetted by Nick Gill. This

is a prime example not only of brilliant creative work but of the

account team and planners working in concert to persuade a reluctant

client that the route was a winner. Seldom has an agency got behind a

creative vehicle to such good effect. BMP at its absolute best.



VW ’Affordability’ Andrew Fraser 1997



Even though Paul Gay and Steve Reeves have gone their separate ways, we

still work with them on a number of projects because they bring a BMP

sensibility to everything they do. Paul directed all the ads in the

’affordability’ campaign and brought to them an effortless realism that

helped Andrew Fraser win a couple of gold awards at Cannes this year,

the Best of Show at the American One Show and the ITV Award at 1998’s

British Television Awards.



Sony ’Armchair’ Mike Boles/Jerry Hollens 1995



Everyone used to say that we’d never hack it as an international agency,

that the demands of satisfying such a disparate audience would undermine

BMP’s home-grown single-mindedness. This commercial for Sony Widescreen

proves otherwise. It’s epic all right, but - at bottom - it’s a simple

demo that extols the benefit of using the product.



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