No-one outside of TBWA’s Whitfield Street office will be surprised
that BMP DDB is Campaign’s unanimous choice for agency of the year. From
a shortlist of three that also included Mother, BMP emerged as our least
controversial winner in years for three clear reasons: first, it is
currently setting the standard creatively and proving that big can be
beautiful; second, a superb new-business performance; and third, the
all-round quality and professionalism the agency displays from its
enviable management line-up downwards.
The outstanding standard of the work provides the most compelling
argument - across an impressive range of clients and in all media. It’s
arguably been the best work in town for the past three years. And, when
WCRS’s Larry Barker joined the agency in January, rivals must have
groaned as the inheritance of the John Webster/Tony Cox years was
Volkswagen, once again, was the best work in the UK last year. It could
have won both advertiser and campaign of the year too, such was the
all-round excellence. It’s more remarkable because 1997 was such a regal
The VW Passat ’obsession’ work continued to excel, with the ’ruler’ and
’garage’ television executions.
The new VW Golf was launched with an acclaimed commercial (even if the
print wasn’t quite up to the outstanding standards of everything
The VW Sharan print work was excellent, and the best of the bunch proved
to be the Polo ’protection’ campaign - also a clear winner of our
campaign of the year accolade. It’s the consistent excellence in each
medium that makes Polo the gold standard.
But it’s not just about VW. Sony is superb too. This year the Campaign
Poster awards gold went to the Sony batteries campaign. We’re sure the
Frank Budgen-directed Sony ’stamina’ commercial will also figure high at
awards shows in 1999. Other gems included the two Walkers swansongs,
’Matthews’ and ’Romario’. Autoglass, Nicorette, Barclaycard and Marmite
are all top class - and even ONdigital looks like the start of a
campaign with legs.
Of course, the Walkers loss was sad - proof of the madness of some
international realignments. The other significant loss was Thomson
But these were more than offset by the COI’s pensions business,
Spillers, Camelot’s tie-up with Vernons, the National Savings account,
Compaq, Guardian Direct, Nicorette, Scoot, the massive ONdigital launch
account and retaining Barclaycard against the odds.
In the 30th anniversary year of both Campaign and BMP, it is fitting the
agency that came top of our 30-year creativity league (Campaign, 18
September 1998) should win our most coveted prize. Its major challenge
now appears to be to solve the problem of Chris Powell’s succession with
the same elan that brought Barker back to the agency.
As ever in 1998, we were not comparing like with like. Mother could not
have done much more under its own terms. Robert Saville and Co produced
excellent work for accounts such as Lilt, Trebor and Batchelors Super
Noodles and Pasta ’n’ Sauce. If there was one thing against the agency,
we felt much of the work was executed in the same style.
TBWA was the agency merger from hell - at least on paper. The coming
together of the recently merged BST, BDDP, GGT, TBWA and Simons Palmer
had ’nightmare’ written all over it.
But once the necessary hard choices - such as the re-hiring of Trevor
Beattie as executive creative director of the whole caboodle just a year
after his resignation from TBWA - were taken, then the agency was
clearly on the right track.
While the talents of Paul Simons are not currently being exploited to
the full, Bainsfair, Clemmow and Johnson form a formidable trio,
allowing Beattie free rein.
The merger resulted in nothing more terrible than the loss of Virgin
Direct to Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe - an amazing achievement,
although some may say losing Nike in the merger process was very
damaging, particularly to the future agency’s creative reputation.
But NatWest, the win of the year, bestowed a new credibility on the
combined force that other agencies take years to achieve. The whole
NatWest village concept proved how nimble the new management is on its
Excellent work for French Connection, Pretty Polly Niks and Sony
Play-station confirmed the agency’s growing creative reputation. It also
managed to crack the difficult brief of selling the Euro to the
Agencies such as Young & Rubicam, Leagas Delaney, Rainey Kelly Campbell
Roalfe and WCRS all continued to make excellent progress. HHCL &
Partners and Partners BDDH bounced back from recent difficulties. Y&R’s
achievement, in particular, makes it an agency worth watching.
But it was BMP’s year. And while he’s sometimes strangely over-looked,
Tony Cox’s performance is worth making special note of. Four years ago,
he wasn’t happy with his department and openly stated he was going to
grab it by the scruff of the neck and shake it up.
His success proves that investment in creativity pays off. Particularly
when it’s allied to excellent planning and top-notch account
It’s the depth of talent across all disciplines that makes BMP so hard
to beat. It will be the agency to beat next year too.
Past winners: St Luke’s (1997), Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO (1996, 1995),
HHCL (1994), Bartle Bogle Hegarty (1993), BMP DDB Needham (1992).