History of advertising: No 144: BMP's Mini Coopers

At a time when nothing defined an adman-made-good more than the flashy car he drove, nothing embodied the no-nonsense but publicity-seeking style of the fledgling Boase Massimi Pollitt more than its Mini fleet.

There were no petrol-guzzling monsters for the agency’s staff. Instead, they got to spread the word of BMP’s 1968 launch by driving around town in eight chocolate brown Mini Coopers emblazoned with the agency’s logo.

It was all part of the headline-grabbing style of the co-founder Martin Boase, who could never understand why agencies in the ad business were so lousy at advertising themselves.

Boase was determined BMP wouldn’t have such an insular mentality. Having persuaded the former Tory cabinet minister Ernest Marples to become BMP’s chairman, he announced the news on the electronic tickertape at Piccadilly Circus.

It was the kind of swagger that seemed appropriate for Boase and his partners Gabe Massimi and Stanley Pollitt when they led the breakout from the Interpublic-owned Pritchard Wood to set up what was to become the first of a new wave of UK agencies.

A number of factors fuelled this succession of start-ups between the late 60s and early 80s. Senior staffers were desperate to break free of old-school British management or orders imposed by remote control from the US. What’s more, big agencies of the time, institutionalised and complacent, were vulnerable to eager young start-ups that had no trouble persuading senior clients to seamlessly switch their accounts. 

The result was a steady stream of start-ups that included Saatchi & Saatchi, Abbott Mead Vickers, Lowe Howard-Spink and Bartle Bogle Hegarty.

Things you need to know

  • Having fought off a hostile takeover bid by France’s BDDP in 1983, BMP was sold to Omnicom in 1989 to become BMP DDB. It now operates as Adam & Eve/DDB.
  • Inspired by its creative chief, John Webster, BMP produced some of the most enduring advertising of all time, from the Smash Martians to the Sugar Puffs Honey Monster.
  • Boase once quipped that the reason he had so many non-executive directorships was "to keep myself in Bentleys".