That Bartle Bogle Hegarty would be the first winner of Campaign's International Creative Network of the Year title should surprise no-one familiar with its work. Much has been written about the agency's highly visual, copy-light creative style. While BBH London has done much this year to rid itself of that stereotype, this famous formula has enabled the agency to speak to a global audience from just five offices and with a mere 510 staff.
WPP's massive HSBC win reminded the advertising industry that large networks offering strong client services and huge economies of scale can still pack a punch. And with Samsung under its belt and an ever-improving creative reputation, WPP's J. Walter Thompson also has a compelling case in this category. Yet BBH's performance in 2004 showed size isn't everything.
The micro-network's ongoing mutual love-in with Unilever proves that even the biggest client can be won over by strong creative work.
Without sacrificing its creative standards, BBH Worldwide has pulled in $180 million worth of extra billing over the past 12 months, a figure bettered only by TBWA\Worldwide and JWT. The network's total global billings now stand at $950 million.
The global advertising industry is changing. Technological developments mean multimedia campaigns can be adapted and distributed across international markets with unprecedented ease. With media agencies providing local know-how, creative networks no longer need individuals on the ground in every country they service. Not for the first time, BBH has pre-empted an industry trend and is now profiting hugely from its instincts.
BBH has been servicing Europe from its London office for many years.
Its excellent track record no doubt helped it to prise two large pan-European briefs out of Unilever - Signal/Mentadent and Becel/Flora - worth a combined £55 million. Unilever also awarded BBH London a Surf brief for the African market. And the agency that once produced such spellbinding work for One2One made a welcome return to mobile telephony by landing a £30 million global Vodafone assignment and now poses a distinct threat to JWT's position on the phone company's roster.
The network's New York office pulled in six key North American accounts including £22 million worth of Smirnoff business, the £12 million Bailey's account, the £12 million Surf account and a £16 million SUV Safety brief.
BBH Asia-Pacific extended the network's relationship with Johnnie Walker by winning the Scotch whisky brand's China account. Meanwhile, the Sao Paulo-based Neogama BBH had a prolific year, winning 12 accounts for the Latin American markets, including Dolce & Gabbana, Giorgio Armani, Surf, Bell's whisky and Baileys. Thanks to such wins, BBH Worldwide grew its levels of organic income for the sixth consecutive year.
However, it was the standard of the network's creative offering that really stood out. Global work - look at recent international ads for T-Mobile or McDonalds - produced out of one hub office invariably fails to connect. In 2004, BBH produced a masterclass in how global advertising should be done.
The network's Johnnie Walker account provided BBH with the usual creative opportunity. Traditionally strong in TV, this year it was the brand's outdoor work that really impressed. A simple creative development of the "keep walking" idea - in which a complicated yellow line symbolises a path that the iconic yellow Johnnie Walker man has just traversed - was adapted to fill groups of billboards in cities such as Madrid and Buenos Aires. The campaign was also used to brand New York's Grand Central Station.
Levi's again proved a strong creative account. With different styles of Levi's to sell to different markets, BBH produced an impressive body of TV and print work, including the unusual anti-fit TV campaign in Europe.
The agency continued its cheeky work for Unilever's Lynx brand in the UK. The provocative "getting dressed" campaign helped increase the brand's share by 2.3 per cent when it aired earlier this year - a record for Lynx during a non-Christmas period. The network produced similarly edgy work for Lynx's international persona, Axe. The quality of the brand's work was recognised at Cannes when the Lynx/Axe account won a gold, a silver and a bronze Lion.
BBH London's debut execution for Diageo's Baileys brand, "float", proved to be the archetypal BBH global ad. A well thought-out idea, stylishly executed, with impressive effects, no dialogue and an ear-catching soundtrack, "float" has now run on every continent. The agency's "change" execution for Sony Ericsson stuck to a similar blueprint and has run in 40 countries around the world.
And if adland still needed proof BBH had been accepted as part of US industry, it received it when the network's New York office created TV and print executions to support New York's bid to host the 2012 Olympics.
BBH US had an eventful year. A seemingly bewildered Gwyn Jones was parachuted in as the chief executive officer, moving Cindy Gallup to the role of chairman and chief marketing officer. It said much about the quality of BBH London's talent that they felt able spare Jones, who joined BBH in 1987 as its first grad.
Jones' departure heralded a mild restructure among BBH London's senior management. This once again exemplified the network's commitment to succession management - the new team of the managing director, Derek Robson, the deputy chairman, Guy Murphy, and the deputy managing director, Charlie Rudd, have a combined service at BBH of 30 years.
In the 1994 grad Ben Fennell, BBH has a trusted figure installed as the head of its Asia-Pacific office, while the recently appointed Hoon Kim and the industry veteran Alexandra Gama continue to provide BBH Japan and Neogama BBH with steady leadership.
There can be no doubt that BBH Worldwide's rise to global domination has been made possible by the patience and vision of a senior management team comprising the group chief executive officer, Nigel Bogle, the chairman and worldwide creative director, John Hegarty, and the group chief operating officer, Simon Sherwood. With these three stalwarts boasting 66 combined years of BBH experience holding the reins, you can bet 2005 will be another year of steady but unfaltering progress for the network.