OPINION: Niche market gives BBH best chance in Far East

It seems everyone was caught looking west when Bartle Bogle Hegarty revealed it was to go east (Campaign, last week). It is typical of an agency brand, built up consistently during its 14-year history, that it should so markedly do its own thing; but almost as interesting were the rumours put about by everyone else.

It seems everyone was caught looking west when Bartle Bogle Hegarty

revealed it was to go east (Campaign, last week). It is typical of an

agency brand, built up consistently during its 14-year history, that it

should so markedly do its own thing; but almost as interesting were the

rumours put about by everyone else.



Our favourite was that John Bartle was leaving to manage Leeds United.

Others involved one very old and one middle-aged chestnut. The old

gossip is that BBH would do a deal with a US multinational, either

selling a minority stake a la Abbott Mead Vickers and BBDO, or reversing

into a struggling agency as with Still Price and Lintas. The more recent

speculation centred on the possibility that BBH would follow Leagas

Delaney and set up in either San Francisco or New York, primarily with a

view to seeking the Levi’s business in the US. This remains a

possibility.



BBH’s decision to go east is pregnant with potential and pitfalls alike.

The worst the agency could do is go in and compete with the

multinationals that have been there a decade. They are there because of

the time-honoured tradition that Procter and Gamble and Unilever want

them to be there. They run P&G-esque ads in the region and then pick up

a local restaurant to ‘do something creative’ - which means entering it

for Cannes.



The top agency lists in Hong Kong, China and Singapore are dominated by

Saatchi and Saatchi, J. Walter Thompson and Ogilvy and Mather, but there

is an exception. Batey Advertising tops the Singapore list with its own

brand of stylish advertising. In the booming Asian marketplace, there is

a niche for such agencies. As Nigel Bogle said, this would appear to

offer opportunities for the type of high-added-value brands on BBH’s

client list. If the second wave of British agency expansion overseas is

not obsessed with being the biggest, but the best, it surely has more

chance of succeeding than the first.



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