Campaign Supplement on BMP DDB 1968-1998: THE BMP FAMILY - BMP4. A wealth of advertising experience occupies BMP’s fourth floor. Michele Martin meets an agency that is quietly getting on with it

BMP4 gets annoyed when people lazily refer to it as a ’retail specialist’.

BMP4 gets annoyed when people lazily refer to it as a ’retail


Yes, it has done memorable work for Marks & Spencer and certainly it

does not see itself as a conventional agency, but its strength lies

somewhere different.

In fact if BMP4 is anything, it is more of a quiet pioneer. Even from

the earliest days of its launch in 1991, it was practising a client-led

approach to business which most of its competitors did not follow until

several years later. It opened its doors telling clients that

advertising might not be the best solution to their problems and

offering a fast-turnaround creative solution if it suited individual

companies, as well as on-going campaigns. In short, it offered

integration and brasserie-type service long before either were an

industry reality.

BMP4, so called because it occupies the fourth floor of BMP’s Bishops

Bridge Road offices, is an agency with a refreshingly pragmatic approach

to what it does. If you are an international client considering whether

to run American work in the UK, it will not try to sell you fresh

creative for the sake of it. But if you are a client looking for new

work, it will do that to a high standard - probably with half an eye to

its point-of-sale and window display potential too. At a different time,

and perhaps without the mighty presence of BMP DDB over its shoulder, it

might have had a higher profile. As it is, it goes about its work

quietly, creating advertising for a roster of satisfied clients that has

included Channel 4, M&S, Robert Bosch, New Zealand Lamb, California

Raisins and Helene Curtis.

A quick look at the figures proves the formula works. Run as a

completely separate entity from BMP, it has a staff of just 22 people,

an annual turnover of around pounds 22 million and loyal clients, many

of whom date from the 80s.

Its joint managing director, Virginia Creer, observes: ’We quickly

realise which clients will fit with us. They tend to be the ones looking

for a commercial and realistic attitude. They value perception rather

than the long, drawn-out process of some agencies.’

In its current form, BMP4 started life in 1991. This was 18 months after

DDB bought BMP Davidson Pearce, and just two years after Davidson Pearce

merged with BMP. The former deal effectively left three sets of managing

executives, including Davidson Pearce’s planning director, Creer, and

its managing director, Simon Yardley. The logjam was sorted by creating

an additional DDB network, including BMP4 under the pair’s joint

managing directorship. The company then set up shop on BMP’s fourth


Creer and Yardley bought with them an unimpeachable advertising track

record. Creer’s formative years were as a client. At Schweppes she had

run the Pepsi business, buying BMP’s famous ’lipsmackin’ campaign.

Yardley, meanwhile, could boast just as keen an eye.

On the Remington shaver account at Davidson Pearce, he overheard Victor

Kiam explain that he felt the shavers had been so good, he bought the

company - and the rest is history.

It is this breadth of experience that appears to have given BMP4 one of

its USPs: a gut instinct for the consumer.

In fact, defining a consumer’s needs and attitude to a product is

something the agency does early on with a client, sometimes at

credentials meetings. Creer says: ’A lot of it is instinctive, built up

through experience, but I’m also a huge believer in research because I

come from a client background.’ Team working is important and many of

BMP4’s leading players came from the original agency, including the

creative director, Alistair Proctor, who left after the merger and

returned in 1995.

Creatively, the agency also stands up to scrutiny. It can rightly be

proud of much of what it did for Channel 4 until the account’s dramatic

loss this summer. Its decision to take the broadcaster regularly and

colourfully on to 96- and 48-sheet posters built the brand nationally

and prevented it from being perceived as a niche station. Nelson

Mandela’s office even requested a copy of one ad promoting Channel 4’s

evening news, which featured his head morphing into that of F W de


Other clients have also enjoyed memorable work. M&S still benefits from

the colourful campaign showing heart-shaped strawberries and the line,

’I love M&S’, while an ad in glossy men’s monthlies, featuring catwalk

models in briefs, forced people to reassess the store’s sensible


Most recently, a commercial for New Zealand lamb capitalised on the

trend for celebrity chefs by featuring Peter Gordon of the Sugar Club


Meanwhile, the 20 per cent of BMP4’s non-advertising work has included

overseeing events campaigns for Virgin Megastores in Europe and the

current communications strategy for the Children’s Promise, a special

millennium fundraising effort.

This year marks two anniversaries: BMP’s 30th and, for Yardley and

Creer, ten years as part of the BMP family. In the coming months, BMP4

would like to find another media client to exploit its experience in the

sector, but the rest is business as usual. The view from the fourth

floor, it would seem, is looking pretty good.


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