DIRECT: ON THE RECORD - Caroline Marshall quizzes AMV’s Michael Baulk about integration and the group’s acquisition of Craik Jones

To most, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO is an advertising agency-led group that has prospered by sticking to its knitting and knowing where it is going. As such, the traditionalists have applauded it.

To most, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO is an advertising agency-led

group that has prospered by sticking to its knitting and knowing where

it is going. As such, the traditionalists have applauded it.

But the group is far more modernist in its approach to the integration

issue than the people who criticised it for its lack of acquisitive

passion in the late 80s would have believed possible.

The AMV vision of integration is more about building a group of

complementary companies than about frantic cross-selling of services.

AMV’s companies include Barraclough Hall Woolston Gray (direct

marketing), Clarke Hooper (sales promotion), Freud Communications (PR)

and Redwood (contract publishing).

Its latest purchase - as of last month - is the direct marketing

hotshop, Craik Jones Watson Mitchell Voelkel, which is best known for

its much-awarded Land Rover work. Michael Baulk, AMV’s group chief

executive, explains the group’s vision.

You now own companies in every area from publishing to direct


Any gaps left?

The starting point is to understand our business, which we define as

’persuasive communications’. We’re not going to bid for Midland Bank but

any legitimate communications skill is an opportunity for us. We have

the principal specialisms covered, but the major gaps are sports

sponsorship, event management and market research. If the right

opportunity came up, we’d consider going downstream into database

management and fulfilment.

What do you say to the people who criticised the AMV group for sitting

on the sidelines and a lack of acquisitions in the late 80s?

We were also criticised for not borrowing money! Well, I’d point to our

group policy throughout our 11 years as a public company, which has been

to be discriminating in our partners. We have never chased volume or

profits at the expense of best practice.

With Barraclough Hall Woolston Gray and Craik Jones you now seem to have

rather a lot of companies in the same area.

We’ve owned BHWG for five years now. It’s a fantastic company with a

brilliant growth record. Craik Jones is more creatively focused and its

growth has been more gentle.

BMP DDB has recently taken on some experienced direct marketing

creatives to work within the advertising agency. Have you considered

doing the same?

Not really. My approach is that I’m running a large public company and I

want to be able to see revenue and profit yields from direct


I see it as a separate sector and as a tremendous opportunity because

it’s growing at two times the rate of advertising.

When was the last time you responded to a piece of direct mail?

That’s a tough one. It was something my wife did at my request. Charity

Christmas cards - we were mailed about a month ago.


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