Walkers - The BMP years. Walkers was a little known Midlands brand when BMP picked it up and, with its Lineker ads, made it famous. But after nearly four years, Frito-Lay has left DDB for BBDO, Emma Hall writes

No more Mr Nice Guy. Like Gary Lineker stealing crisps from unsuspecting innocents, Frito-Lay has swiped the Walkers account from DDB in order to feed the BBDO network.That’s how it feels in the UK anyway. It’s less than four years since BMP DDB won the Walkers Crisps account from Young & Rubicam, but in that time the agency has built a brand and a campaign that British consumers have taken to their hearts.

No more Mr Nice Guy. Like Gary Lineker stealing crisps from

unsuspecting innocents, Frito-Lay has swiped the Walkers account from

DDB in order to feed the BBDO network.That’s how it feels in the UK

anyway. It’s less than four years since BMP DDB won the Walkers Crisps

account from Young & Rubicam, but in that time the agency has built a

brand and a campaign that British consumers have taken to their


But as part of a global realignment, Walkers’ parent company, Frito-Lay

(owned by PepsiCo) last week consolidated its dollars 200 million

advertising account within BBDO Worldwide. The business will be run from

New York and everyone at BMP is gutted.

’A case of global decision ignoring local excellence,’ is how Chris

Powell, the chief executive of BMP, described the news in his all-staff

e-mail last Thursday.

He’s right: BMP’s work on Walkers Crisps has been excellent. Even the

agency’s false start - the little-remembered Walkers ’duck’ commercial -

was a lot more charming than it sounds. It starred a talking duck from

Leicester who was lucky enough to win pounds 20 in his packet of Walkers

Crisps but had trouble locating his wallet.

The duck could have done Lineker out of a job but the client got cold

feet. There were doubts about whether a duck had the necessary stature

for the brand, but there was also a problem with the US client, who was

unsure about associating its food with a farmyard animal.

Still, the duck took Walkers back to its Leicester roots, where the

creative team of Gary Betts and Malcolm Green found the local boy, Gary

Lineker, who was just back from Japan at the end of his football-playing


John Webster, BMP’s executive creative director, was ’tickled’ with the

choice of Lineker, but he takes the credit for marrying the

squeaky-clean footballer with the ’no more Mr Nice Guy’ theme.

Even back then there was resistance from the US, which didn’t really get

the joke and insisted that BMP shoot an alternative ending where Lineker

gives the crisps back.

Martin Glenn, the vice-president, commercial, of Frito-Lay Europe,

believed in the campaign and the agency. ’He put his money where his

mouth was and stood up to the US,’ Webster recalls. ’I wish there were

more like him.’

The original ’welcome home’ commercial sparked controversy and prompted

23 complaints to the Independent Television Commission (which were not

upheld). But once everyone had got the joke, a long-running campaign was


Paul Weiland, who directed almost all of the ads, remembers: ’Gary was

incredibly nervous at first. It has been wonderful to watch his

confidence grow and he is very proud of the campaign.’

Webster adds: ’Gary takes it quite seriously and he’s got taste. He’s

turned down plenty of my scripts.’ One Lineker reject was the suggestion

that he and his fellow footballer, Paul Gascoigne, dress up in tutus and

perform a ballet dance.

’Garymania’, the second instalment in the campaign, had Lineker dodging

a group of autograph-hunters so that he could enjoy his new crinkle-cut

crisps in selfish peace.

This spot was followed in January 1996 by ’stand’, in which Lineker -

despite being distracted by watching a football match - manages to stop

Gascoigne from stealing his crisps, prompting a World Cup 90-style

tearful outburst from the Geordie.

By the third Lineker ad, BMP had made Walkers a famous brand with famous

advertising. When the agency won the account, Walkers was already the

best-selling crisp brand in the UK and it had achieved phenomenal growth

during the previous two years. Much of the growth, however, was down to

the enormous increase in distribution that Walkers had achieved as it

grew from a Midlands brand to a national name.

BMP’s task was to maintain growth at a time when sales looked like they

had reached a plateau. Sales and market share both continued to rise

throughout the four years that BMP was custodian of the brand.

’They are populist ads done with style,’ Weiland declares, ’they touched

a nerve and always kept pretty fresh.’

After ’stand’, the next classic, ’paranoia’, was aired in July 1996.

It showed menacing Linekers lurking everywhere - as a baby in a pram, a

schoolgirl, a mum - just waiting to pounce on a paranoid young boy who

is jealously guarding his pack of Walkers.

Then, in early 1997, Walkers introduced its Lite range with a

black-and-white spoof spot that saw Lineker choosing a pack of crisps

over a clinch with Ulrika Jonsson. The next commercial, starring the

Spice Girls, had to be toned down for showing before 6pm because of its

saucy double-entendres.

The loss of the business came as a shock to everyone at BMP and even, it

seems, to Glenn, who said tersely last week: ’My level of involvement is

that I heard the news on a fax this morning.’

Michael Bray, BMP’s UK-based managing director of worldwide accounts,

has his own theory about the decision. ’Global companies now see brands

as their key assets and chief executive officers see themselves as brand

managers in the biggest sense. The top people used to be involved in

production and buying factories but now they want direct control of


It is doubly ironic that BMP should lose Walkers to a global

consolidation, because there had been hopes at the agency that things

might go the opposite way. The ’no more Mr Nice Guy’ concept had already

been developed in other countries, with London as the lead agency. In

the Netherlands, a wholesome pop singer took on the Lineker role and, in

Spain, an equivalent footballer was found. And BMP’s swansong for

Walkers, the ’Romario’ spot, is being shown in countries all over the

world during the World Cup finals this month.

But the global forces of PepsiCo have, in all likelihood, put an end to

such gems. The latest Lineker execution, ’bodyguard’, went on air in

April. Glenn has vowed that it will not be the last but it may be

difficult to hold back the forces of globalisation forever.

For Webster, losing Walkers is one of the worst things that has happened

during 30 years in the business.

Powell, too, says: ’We’re sore. The Walkers account was right up our

street and we locked the brand into the roots of the British


Glenn couldn’t agree more: ’It’s a big loss. Without a shadow of a doubt

BMP is the best agency I have ever worked with.’


July 1994: BMP DDB wins the Walkers account, putting an end to Young &

Rubicam’s ’walking’ campaign (above)

March 1995: BMP wins Quavers and Doritos from Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO

without a pitch

March 1996: ’Stand’ wins a gold at the British Television Advertising


April 1996: Walkers voted brand of the year at the ITV Awards for


May 1997: BMP becomes the first UK agency to take a D&AD gold in 11

years, for its Doritos TV idents

May 1997: DDB Europe appointed to handle the pounds 30 million

pan-European Frito-Lay crisp account

July 1997: Doritos realigned globally into BBDO

May 1998: Frito-Lay appoints BBDO Worldwide as its global agency across

all world markets.

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