F Scott Fitzgerald had a rather grim take on what happens when you turn 30, noting that all it promised was "a thinning briefcase of enthusiasm". Bartle Bogle Hegarty would beg to differ. To crudely paraphrase one of the finest American writers of the 20th century, the 30-year-old ad agency’s enthusiasm briefcase overfloweth.
BBH’s energy puts even the most dynamic start-ups to shame. The agency has all the zeal of a shop a quarter of its age and produced work this year that can be counted among the finest in its canon. All of which made the choice of BBH as Campaign’s Advertising Agency of the Year for the second year running an easy one.
It was a historic year, with the founders signing over 100 per cent to the French multinational giant Publicis Groupe. As Sir John Hegarty and Nigel Bogle plan their exit strategy, the current momentum should help BBH continue its fine line in nonconformity, despite having a fully fledged parent to deal with.
BBH was the most creatively awarded UK agency and the second-most-awarded in the world at Cannes. The "three little pigs" spot for The Guardian, which put a fairytale spin on journalism in the modern age, was one of the year’s most-talked-about ads and landed two gold Lions. BBH also won the UK’s only Grand Prix (in the Creative Effectiveness category) for last year’s Lynx campaign.
The Lynx work this year was equally inspired. BBH launched Lynx Anarchy, a fragrance for men and women, and made it the most successful Lynx variant ever with the help of the sublime TV spot "the chain" and some finely crafted poster work. The wit and charm we’ve come to expect from Lynx was also on display in ads for its shower gels range and the Anarchy Island campaign.
Under the leadership of the executive creative director, Nick Gill, Audi received a vintage-inspired makeover with the black-and-white film "the swan". BBH created charming work for Barclaycard and a well-observed spot for Weetabix. A powerful British Airways Olympics ad showing a plane taxiing through London was given a clever interactive twist online that allowed people to customise it so the plane appeared to be moving down their street.
Donations to Refuge doubled thanks to BBH’s thought-provoking film starring the make-up artist Lauren Luke, and this year’s St John Ambulance TV spot brought some dramatic intensity to the ad break.
The agency’s senior management, most of whom have been with BBH since the 90s, is a bastion of stability. The top team, including the chief executive, Ben Fennell, the managing director, Charlie Rudd, the chairman, Jim Carroll, the deputy chairman, Jon Peppiatt, the BBH Labs founder, Mel Exon, as well as Gill and the deputy executive creative director, Rosie Arnold fuels the agency’s perpetual drive for excellence.
The shop boasted a 70 per cent pitch conversion rate and acquired some sought-after new clients. BBH lost one client, Kronenbourg 1664, but its wins included RAC’s £12 million business after a pitch against the incumbent, Rapier, Grey, Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R and Saatchi & Saatchi. It also won Old El Paso’s £25 million global business and the global ad account for Huawei, also worth £25 million. Towards the end of the year, it wrested a chunk of the Dove Men+Care global business out of Ogilvy & Mather.
When not pitching, in production or maintaining clients, BBHers were testing their limits in other ways. The director of engagement planning, Kevin Brown, completed a cycle ride from Athens to London, raising £51,000 for charity. This lent some inspiration to the intrepid team of 11 from the agency who managed to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in October to raise £31,000 for Barnardo’s.
Hegarty described the early years of BBH as "interlaced with an enormous sense of achievement and a constant fear of impending failure". It is arguably this tension that has made the agency the beacon of creativity it is today. As its fourth decade unfolds, it is evident that the magic BBH formula remains intact.
Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO
The biggest ad agency in London instigated a reshuffle, boosted its digital and creative offering, picked up a slew of awards, set in motion plans for new intellectual property and consultancy units and had one of its campaigns discussed in Parliament. Despite its large size and market-leading status, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO is never content to rest on its laurels.
The agency, famed for its meticulously managed succession-planning, didn’t disappoint this year. After the departure of the executive chairman, Farah Ramzan Golant, the agency, led by the chief executive, Ian Pearman, promoted Craig Mawdsley and Bridget Angear to chief strategy officers, Jonny Spindler to chief innovation officer and Richard Arscott and Sarah Douglas to managing director and chief client officer respectively. There were also some new hirings, namely Michael Pring, Tom Vick and Clive Tanqueray as its three managing partners.
It was named IPA Effectiveness Company of the Year and picked up golds for its Metropolitan Police, Snickers and Walkers work. For Snickers, AMV hired celebrities to Tweet in an out-of-character manner. This resulted in the glamour model Katie Price Tweeting about the economy – a missive that was used to inform a Parliamentary quip.
AMV also staged a music tour on Facebook for Doritos, created Britain’s biggest climbing wall for Walkers and influenced the change of law on cigarette branding on behalf of Cancer Research UK. On the new-business front, the highlight was winning Eurostar’s pan-European account. In all, it was another successful year for AMV, with promise of more great things to come.
Grey London delivered huge improvements to record one of its most memorable years. The agency saw impressive new-business growth through the capture of News International’s £28 million advertising account, Duracell’s £15 million global business and Seat’s £12 million UK and pan-European work. The agency also created one of this year’s best campaigns – "Vinnie" for the British Heart Foundation.
Saatchi & Saatchi
Saatchi & Saatchi made great strides in 2012 and its plan to be bolder and more creative is clearly taking shape. The shop released some strong work for Toyota and T-Mobile, took on board the colossal EE business, and won Mattessons and Virgin Pure. It also boosted its digital offering with the acquisition of Outside Line.
Recent winners: Bartle Bogle Hegarty (2011); Adam & Eve (2010); no winner (2009); Mother (2008); Fallon (2007)