PERSPECTIVE: One account can be the light that draws others to an agency

Batchelors and Mother - once the closet of advertising couples - have fallen out after six years. Yet even their very public divorce this week, with Mother resigning the business and Campbell's expressing "disappointment", cannot overshadow a marriage that has been the envy of the industry.

Significantly, Mother's work for Super Noodles won golds for creativity and effectiveness in the internal Unilever awards in 1999. To those who would dismiss these awards as so much spiel, I can point to a body of work that marked a step change in a moribund category. Cup-a-Soup and Fray Bentos were notable, but it was Super Noodles that had the biggest impact. Pretty much everything Mother has done for Super Noodles has been tasteless, loutish, hilariously funny - and, in my view, absolutely brilliant.

Pre-Mother, Super Noodles resided in that part of adland where perfect mothers and perfect children had happy smiley 40-second adventures in happy smiley adland. With Mother and a brave client in the driving seat, Super Noodles advertising moved into new territory where reality and humour combined to great commercial effect. The triumph of the fatties in the West Side Story spoof is one of the bravest strategies since VW told us its Beetle was a lemon.

Celebrating the legendary properties of Vindaloo Super Noodles with Johnny Cash singing "Burn, burn, burn, the ring of fire" may have aimed low but it certainly hit the advertising target.

Mother has resigned business before, including its founding client Channel 5 and Typhoo. But there's no hiding from this resignation. Batchelors was the client that inspired and enabled the agency to create its first change-the-mould work. The work drew big serious clients such as Coke, Diageo, Whitbread, ITV Digital and Orange to Clerkenwell, seeking inspiration.

Batchelors enabled Mother to continually prove that it had not sacrificed its creative edge to its stellar billings growth. The awards came by the bucket, of course, but they were a bonus. The biggest buzz was the chance to work with like-minded clients, the kind of clients that agency staff go to work for. It's not the loss of income that will hit the agency - if it really needed the money it would have struggled on - but the talismanic effect of the Batchelors brands on the client list.

For the industry as a whole, there's a familiar conclusion to be drawn here. Mother's relationship with Batchelors started unravelling two years ago when Campbell's bought the brand from Unilever. Mother and the client team were included in the package. Inevitably, as the members of the Mother-centric client team left and the Campbell's culture prevailed, the relationship foundered. In the end, an agency, even the best agency in town, will only ever be as strong as its champions at the client. But you all knew that, didn't you?