In 1997 Abbott Mead Vickers bought Craik Jones after a 'courtship' of a number of years. The seeds for the deal were planted when Craik Jones sent out a Valentine's Day mailing, following its launch in 1991.
This mailing was sent to 12 advertising agencies that Craik Jones admired, including AMV, Leagas Delaney, Bartle Bogle Hegarty and HHCL & Partners.
The idea behind it was based on the fact that great agencies work on great brands. Craik Jones hoped some recommendations might come their way if they could convince the agencies that DM for these brands would be safe in their hands. The mailing included a dozen red roses and a letter assuring the recipients that, though the creative standards of DM agencies may have let down the good work done by ad agencies in the past, Craik Jones would be an exception.
Six years later, a deal was done. David Watson, the managing director of Craik Jones, says: 'AMV have been true to their word and have never interfered in the running of the business. They understand what we are trying to do.'
Michael Baulk fleshes out the story of the acquisition: 'BBDO and Abbott Mead Vickers got together in 1991. Prior to that and for sometime afterwards, AMV, as an independent plc, had a policy to acquire creatively focused, talented companies. For instance, we had already acquired Redwood Publishing and the PR company Fishburn Hedges.
'We had a history of investing in companies that shared our philosophy of focusing on great work. Craik Jones always attracted me because they shared this philosophy in practice. They were, and are, generally regarded as the most creatively focused direct marketing agency in the UK. Their track record was outstanding.
They were the kind of brand that would make a terrific addition, so I got to know them. We had the shared experience of being at Ogilvy at the same time before I joined AMV in 1986. Working with them, I got to understand their philosophy and, most importantly, I thought they were all terrific people.
'We had never said to ourselves that we needed a direct marketing agency but we were alert to organisations that were doing great work and were creatively focused. Craik Jones was at the top of the list. I believe in direct marketing as a separate business because the necessary skills are highly specialist. BHWG Proximity, also part of our group, and Craik Jones both have them. They are both successful but work very differently.
'We are very close to Craik Jones. I sit on their board but, as is always the case with this group, there is no great central apparatus that imposes restrictions on its components. We want to attract really good people and allow them to retain their sovereignty.
'As I've sat with Craik Jones and got to know them and their work better, I understand why there is such a respect for what they are doing across the industry.'