In the week when Sir Martin Sorrell formalised his biggest deal
yet, it was no mean feat to steal the show on Campaign’s front page.
But that’s exactly what the now famous five from the Bartle Bogle
Hegarty Group did when they announced that they had quit the agency to
launch a rival outfit (Campaign, 12 May).
Bruce Crouch, BBH’s executive creative director, Andy Bird, the head of
design, Duncan Bird, the group business director on One2One, Seamus
O’Farrell, the group business director on Whitbread, and Kevin Brown,
the media director at Starcom Motive, form the starting line-up. Their
departure marks the agency’s first significant breakaway in its 18-year
It’s a serious line-up with a serious proposition. Talk to some of the
partners’ contemporaries and they’ll tell you that Duncan Bird is well
known for encouraging different disciplines to work together - a belief
that is central to what the new agency has to offer.
Crouch, I’m told, is open-minded and pragmatic, while Brown is a great
craftsman. O’Farrell has a reputation for being direct and honest -
which leaves Andy Bird. Apparently he has major air traffic control
problems with his girlfriends on account of being far too attractive for
his own good.
All five have the kind of pedigree that comes from growing up at
agencies such as BBH, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and DDB.
Over a two-hour breakfast meeting, it is Duncan Bird and Crouch who have
more to say than the rest, but it is equally obvious that each partner
is up for a bit of history-making.
Central to the as yet nameless new agency - where the partners share
equal equity - is the desire to redefine account planning. Duncan Bird
says: ’Account planning looks at one part of the picture, media planning
looks at the other. We will combine those two disciplines into one new
discipline, ’consumption planning’, and put the consumption planner into
the creative team.’
Consequently, the creative offering is also in line for an overhaul.
’Creatively the industry is being very Luddite at the moment,’ Crouch
says. ’The copywriter/art director axis originated in the 60s and it’s
about time we changed it.
’We anticipate that consumers and clients will start with the website
and work back to the ad. So why not brief the web designer and the guy
who can produce the digital commercial at the same time with the same
idea? Then your offering is really holistic.’
Gone are the days when the head of design was called upon just to set
’We want to create a world where people don’t sit in isolation - where
people think about how consumers are behaving,’ Andy Bird says. ’Stanley
Pollitt did it 30 years ago at BMP; we want to start again with our
point of view.’
Media becomes a central linchpin, working in close collaboration with
the creative process. ’I’m tired of having somebody say to me - here’s
the space, now fill it,’ Crouch says. ’Lots of people say they’re media
neutral but I hate that. You don’t go anywhere in neutral, we’ll be
Having Brown on board from the outset will be an enormous benefit. ’It’s
not about putting the media back into creativity, it’s about putting
creativity back into media,’ Brown explains.
Martin Jones, the managing director at the AAR, is optimistic about the
partners’ chances of success. ’I have nothing but huge respect for
anyone who sets up in what must now be the most competitive market in
the world. But any start-up needs to understand there is no such thing
as overnight success - that only ever comes if you launch off the back
of a client like Mother did with Channel 5 or BBH did with Audi,’ Jones
says. ’As with any start-up, they will have to differentiate
It’s familiar ground for Jeremy Miles, the chairman of Miles Calcraft
Briginshaw Duffy. His agency was the first breakaway in Abbott Mead
Vickers’ 21-year history. What does he make of it?
’On paper they make a good team. They know each other well which will
prove invaluable during the hard times. They’ll love the freedom,
combined with the responsibility of setting up. They’ve all worked at a
great agency on big pieces of business and they’ll be creatively driven,
which is great for our industry. What they’ll miss is resource,’ Miles
For Duncan Bird, the loss is more personal as he has already traded in
his Porsche for a Mini.
You sense the comparison with Miles Calcraft annoys the partners
slightly because it detracts from what they feel is the originality of
’The biggest problem will be cynicism,’ Crouch says. ’People will ask,
’well, how is that different then?’, but it’s not going to be different
for difference’s sake. It’s going to be different because it’s
But if they can’t persuade London’s ad scene to give their ideas a try,
how do they rate their chances with some of the more traditional clients
’This isn’t about new age and tree-hugging and doing lots of wacky
things for the sake of it,’ O’Farrell says. ’Neither is it brain
surgery. We’re bringing in different disciplines to the process and
’We’re not trying to be a niche brand. We’re just as up for IBM as we
are some small computer start-up company - just as up for Coca-Cola as
we are the local juice bar.’
And with no business on board yet, it would be stupid to have it any
Nigel Bogle, BBH’s chairman, says they have a gentlemen’s agreement that
the partners will never attempt to attract BBH’s accounts. Bogle is
naturally keen to play down the effect their departure will have on the
’I believe that BBH is in particularly good shape at the moment and I do
not envisage any significant problems as a result of this,’ he says.
’We have won more than pounds 60 million of new business this year, the
work is looking very sharp and we have just taken 45 staff offsite to
plot the future of the agency in the digital age.’
Mark Cranmer, the managing director at Starcom Motive and a close friend
of all the partners, will feel the loss more than anyone. ’While I rate
their chances of success as nothing below very high, it is a personal
tragedy for me. I’ve lost just about all my drinking partners in one
fell swoop,’ he moans.
But Cranmer can at least answer one question that has bugged more than a
few observers - why no women in the starting line-up?
’That’s easy, there obviously weren’t any women in the pub late enough
on the night they came up with the idea,’ he says.