The RAB Aerial Awards 2006: Radio Agency of the Year - Bartle Bogle Hegarty

The fact that Bartle Bogle Hegarty is winning prizes in 2006 probably won't come as a shock to anybody. The agency has been on a roll for a while now, with some headline-grabbing account wins and a series of awards successes.

But BBH could also be the kind of creative agency that gets snooty about radio. In fact, according to its executive creative director, John O'Keeffe, it used to be. "There was a somewhat sniffy attitude in the old days," he says, "but things have changed."

The awards record seems to back this up. In the past couple of years, BBH has won not only half-a-dozen monthly Aerials but also three D&ADs and three Gramia Awards. In addition, BBH is spending more than £8 million a year on radio - that's 50 per cent more than it was spending two years ago.

So what has changed? According to O'Keeffe, it is partly attitudinal.

"There is an awareness here that good work wins awards in any medium. Every time one team wins a monthly Aerial, you can bet there's a team up the corridor, who have maybe been wrestling with a TV brief, and longing for a chance to get some good radio out."

But a bigger contributing factor may be in the area of process, rather than philosophy. In 2004, BBH recruited a dedicated in-house radio production specialist, Alex Burrett. Burrett's background includes radio drama production at the BBC and sound studio engineering in Soho - an unusual and valuable pedigree.

"My experience means I can offer advice to creative teams about the ideas they have," Burrett says. "Sometimes, they come up with ideas that are maybe too ambitious, or that need a bit of thought in terms of how they will actually work in the studio."

The creative teams have learned to respect Burrett's advice and guidance, O'Keeffe says, although they didn't all immediately understand how to use his expertise. "A vital ingredient is actually the fact that Alex is a friendly, approachable guy who can get on with anyone. The teams soon learn he's not a threat, and he can take their ideas further."

BBH's clients see the difference too. Larry File, the Ginsters marketing controller, says: "They do keep us very involved in the radio, the whole team takes it seriously." Getting good radio out requires a fair degree of flexibility and thoughtfulness, according to File. "Our Good Honest Food campaign is very performance-dependent," he says. "If we go into the studio with seven scripts, we may only come out with four that work. That takes time and commitment."

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