Let me begin, as the company’s name does, with Abbott. Twenty years
ago, Barry Day edited a book called 100 Great Advertisements.* Ten
contributors each chose and commented on ten print advertisements they
David Abbott, already a distinguished creative director, was one of
He was introduced with these words: ’At the end of 1977, David Abbott
left French Gold Abbott Kenyon and Eckhardt ... to join the small and
relatively unknown Mead Davies and Vickers Limited. His reason for
moving was the fear of becoming a mere figurehead at his own agency and
losing all practical involvement in the creation of ads.’
The ads he chose included El Al, Avis, Hertz, the British Travel
Association and Volkswagen - and these are some of comments he made
about them: ’It shows how facts can be used to improve an image and
defeat a competitor’; ’The copy is witty and so terse the sentences
click together like Lego’; ’Notice how the argument develops logically
and how easily the ad flows.
Never once do you have to double back to re-read a sentence’; ’It obeys
the rules of civilised debate’; ’The campaign appealed to head and
heart. There was information but the ads were also prose poems ...
often moving, always emotional’; ’The ability to recognise a good story
is one of the great tricks of our trade’.
Over the past 20 years, David Abbott has achieved the remarkable double
of continuing to write elegant, persuasive advertisements while also
becoming a respected and influential figurehead (though never mere). His
own style and the agency’s style are indivisible.
The words of praise he used about the advertisements he selected in 1977
tell you a lot about his own. In any assessment of AMV BBDO, Abbott - or
God as he is respectfully known - will come first. And so he should.
But any good agency has both visible and invisible bits - and,
naturally, the visible bits get most attention. The visible bits are
broadcast on national television. The visible bits have awards evenings
devoted to them and stand a chance of picking up a pencil or two.
It’s the visible bits that potential clients base their opinions on.
Meanwhile, the invisible bits remain invisible. There are no regular
Campaign features devoted to the recognition of agency openness or
You can’t reproduce an Economist poster or a Sainsbury’s press ad as
evidence of thoughtfulness to staff or commitment to client
Nobody asks Peter Mead or Adrian Vickers or Michael Baulk to step up to
a podium to collect a heavy gold object in recognition of their
outstanding contribution to the creation and maintenance of a corporate
culture in which David Abbott, among a great many others, can do their
But if AMV’s invisible bits were as visible as their visible bits, I
believe they would be at least as well respected. It seems to the
outsider to be an extremely well-mannered agency, reserving its
competitive energies for its clients rather than directing them
fruitlessly inwards. Without the invisible, the visible could never have
been as good as it is, for as long as it has.
The public celebration of high achievement is always a risk. The
Almighty may see it as a challenge (and He’s probably a bit miffed
already about the God thing). So it’s just possible that He will take
this opportunity to chasten Abbott Mead Vickers by inflicting upon them
a devastating series of hostile acts.
But I’m afraid that’s just wishful thinking on my part.
*Times Newspapers, Mirror Group Newspapers, Campaign, 1978.