Campaign Supplement on BMP DDB 1968-1998: BMP history 1968-98. It isn’t always easy to manage the move from local creative hotshop to network player without losing creative potency. But BMP has - as this chronology shows



MAY 1968 Boase Massimi Pollitt is set up by five ex-Pritchard Wood

directors. They launch with a splash in the Sunday Times: ’The biggest

breakaway this country’s advertising industry has ever seen.’ The

Financial Times warns Pritchard Wood (which eventually disappeared into

Erwin Wasey) of ’account switches and more resignations’. The agency

launches with a a few gimmicks, including eight branded

chocolate-coloured Minis, former Tory Cabinet minister Sir Ernest

Marples as non-executive chairman, and a record which featuring a

somewhat stilted three-way ’agency philosophy’ conversation between the

partners. The record ends as though stuck: ’Call Boase Massimi Pollitt

(clunk) ... Call Boase Massimi Pollitt (clunk) ... Call Boase Massimi

Pollitt (clunk).’

Later that month Cadbury’s puts its chocolate biscuits and instant mash

accounts, worth pounds 350,000, into BMP. Five other Pritchard Wood

directors join: David Batterbee, Peter Jones, John Webster, Roger

Shipley and Charlie Borden. They swell the numbers to such an extent

that the new agency moves from Manchester Square to an old carpet store

on Tottenham Court Road.

The new offices demonstrate an early example of BMP’s characteristic mix

of ambition and self-deprecating humour. A sign on the door reads:

’Before you enter, imagine this: the most modern-looking agency staffed

by the brightest people. The whole place beautifully efficient and a

delight to visit. Got that in your mind. Now keep it there - because we

won’t look like that for a few months.’ With his flair for the

soundbite, Martin Boase describes the agency as ’big in everything but


SUMMER 1968 Other clients soon follow, including Granada Rental, Eden

Vale and Short Brothers and Harland, an account from which agency and

marketing director are later simultaneously fired.

MAY 1969 The agency closes its first year billing pounds 1 million -

which produces a loss of pounds 17,000. (Within a year, BMP is billing

pounds 1.75 million and turns the loss into a profit of pounds 42,473.)

This month also sees the arrival from Erwin Wasey, into which Pritchard

Wood had been folded, of Chris Powell. Others who join over the next few

years and go on to greater things include Gray Jolliffe, Geoff

Howard-Spink, Tim Delaney, David Cowan, Dave Trott, Graham Rose, Jane

Newman and Chris Wilkins.

1971 As the Heath government locks horns with the unions, BMP wins the

Trades Union Congress business, the first of many such advertising


In September, co-founder Gabe Massimi sells out - to the surprise of few

- and goes to Rome to set up a commercials company before returning to

the US. Massimi had been less and less involved and admits to ’a certain

amount of boredom’. John Webster seamlessly succeeds him as creative


BMP wins the first of its Courage business. In its first TV work for the

brewer, Henry Cooper tells viewers ’it’s what your right arm’s for’.

Alan Parker directs the Smash ’kitchen of the future’. The agency, with

40 staff, moves to 12 Bishops Bridge Road, Paddington, marking what

insiders call the first Golden Age of BMP.

1972 Some famous BMP ads make their debuts. Among them, a hapless Dustin

Hoffman Graduate-style hero for Dry Cane rum; the laid-back animated

Cresta bear whose catchphrase, ’it’s frothy, man’ became the toast of

the playground; and the long-running ’watch out, there’s a Humphrey

about’ ads for Unigate milk which starred, among others, Muhammad Ali

and Spike Milligan. In November, two young graduates join - Ross Barr

from Glasgow University and Chris Cowpe from Oxford. BMP backs a

second-string agency, Samuels Jones Isaacson Page.

1973-74 In February BMP wins the Pepsi-Cola account and produces an ad

with the world’s longest slogan, ’Lipsmackin etc etc’ as declaimed by

Radio 1 DJ Emperor Rosko. A new Smash ad launches, featuring a Martian

family who marvel at the curious potato-eating habits of primitive

earthlings. John McKnight joins from University College London, Mike

Greenlees from Imperial Tobacco and Paul Feldwick from Oxford.

In February BMP helps the Labour Party, then in Opposition, return to

government in the first general election of the year. The arrangement is

carried out on a voluntary basis.

Later on that year, BMP picks up the Max Factor business and the launch

of St Ivel’s Prize yoghurt and the Prize Guys.

Ferrero Tic Tac’s cool comic-book hero makes his debut in a tight


1975-77 New accounts to move in include Bergasol, J-Cloths, Spillers

Moist and Meaty (that’s dogfood), Imperial Panatella cigars, the EEC

referendum for the antis, wage restraint for the COI and another Ferrero

product, Kinder Surprise. Martin Boase becomes chairman and BMP

Investments, a holding company, takes a 49 per cent stake, later sold,

in Media Audits. 1976 turns out to be a golden year: billings top pounds

10 million and the agency reaches number 21 in the billings list;

Renault and a place on the Quaker roster are won. For the latter, the

Honey Monster makes his debut. Martin Boase, Stanley Pollitt and Peter

Jones take on new responsibilities at holding company level, leaving

David Batterbee and Chris Powell in charge of the agency. Tim Cox,

ex-Pritchard Wood, joins as media director, and James Best and Leslie

Butterfield as trainee planners.

In October 1976, BMP sells 50 per cent to Eurocom’s Univas network.

Martin Boase describes the deal as a ’devastatingly neat solution’ to

the international question.

As BMP’s first decade closes, billings top pounds 12 million, employees

110 and the agency makes 18 in the Campaign rankings.


1978-79 The second decade opens with a sparkling new-business

performance: more from Cadbury’s, Prestel, all of Quaker, a clutch of

Reckitt & Colman brands and Citizen watches. The agency picks up its

first Cannes Grand Prix in 1978: an ad for Coty’s L’Aimant perfume which

asks ’Do you speak L’Aimant?’. The only disappointment is a much-hyped

commercial for Foster Grant sunglasses starring Tony Curtis which failed

to live up to its promise.

Stanley Pollitt’s death, aged 48, from a heart attack in May 1979,

leaves its shadow over an otherwise triumphant year in which the agency

picked up two golds in Cannes, for John Smith’s and Courage Best

’Gertcha’. On the business side, Renault moves out when Publicis

acquires a London shop, but its loss is more than compensated by new

assignments from Reckitts, Barker and Dobson, Wilkinson Sword and

Cussons. Notwithstanding the personal and professional loss, Pollitt’s

death underlines the strength of BMP’s collegiate management system.

1980-81 Issues over share ownership following Pollitt’s death lead to

the unraveling of the deal with Univas and set in motion the process by

which the agency eventually goes public. On the creative side, 1980 sees

John Webster drop his creative managerial duties to become executive

creative director and concentrate on writing. The creative department

goes from strength to strength with gold at Cannes for Hellmann’s and

BTA golds for ’Rabbit, Rabbit’, ’Gertcha’ and John Smith’s. Toyota

replaces Renault, while other wins include Presto supermarkets, the

Daily Express, Fisher-Price and Blue Stratos.

A test marketing project for Quaker’s Harvest Crunch eventually leads to

the famous squirrels campaign.

In 1981, BMP invites Jonathan Miller to give the first Stanley Pollitt

memorial lecture at the Cafe Royal. Billings rise to pounds 39 million

and the agency, with nearly 200 staff (100 of whom become shareholders),

grabs 13th place in the Campaign league table. In another strong

new-business year - wins from Sony, Ingersoll, Johnson & Johnson and the

Association of Metropolitan Authorities - the only major loss is Pepsi,

the result of an international realignment. For once, however, turnover

of senior staff is high. Top creatives Graham Collis, Graham Rose and

Dave Christensen leave; on the account side David Jones and John Madell

also go. Top-level creative hirings include Barbara Nokes and (again)

Alan Tilby.

1982-83 John Smith’s becomes a signature BMP account following more

creative golds and the Grand Prix at the IPA Effectiveness Awards. The

latter is for a pounds 300,000 campaign in Yorkshire which increased

sales by ten million pints. In new business the year gets off to a

cracker with the pounds 2.5 million ITV2 account, later known as Channel

4. NALGO hires BMP for an anti-government-cuts campaign. Butlins, Knorr,

Gillette Papermate and (second-time lucky) Hofmeister also move in.

1983 For the next few months life is dominated by the process of going

public. When the shares are eventually listed in May, the agency has a

market capitalisation of pounds 16.25 million. Wins include Allied

Bakeries, Johnnie Walker, more from Sony and Carreras Rothmans.

Diversification begins as the agency buys Marketing Solutions for pounds

10 million and its boss, Jonathan Crisp, becomes BMP’s single largest

shareholder with 5.8 per cent. Incoming staff include Paul Leeves as

deputy to Alan Tilby, Frank Budgen, Peter Clay (now deputy managing

director) and Paul Taylor (now managing director of the media arm, BMP

Optimum). BMP is voted Campaign’s Agency of the Year for 1983.

1984-85 Billings continue to rise steadily in 1984, up pounds 15 million

to pounds 77 million - ninth in the Campaign league. Mindful of the need

get a toehold in the US, BMP takes a stake in the Angotti Thomas Hedge

start-up. Major wins include the Greater London Council, for whom the

agency produces controversial and award-winning work. The agency’s happy

knack of winning IPA Effectiveness prizes is maintained - five firsts in

the last three sets of awards. Despite getting 1985 off to a strong

start with the pounds 5 million Alliance & Leicester account, the year

turns out to be a disappointment in new business.

Not so in creative terms where it is business as usual with the likes of

George the Hofmeister Bear, Fisher-Price and the Guardian’s ’Points of

View’. The drive to expand and diversify is maintained with the launch

of BMP Business and a 25 per cent stake in the Davis Wilkins start-up.

Larry Barker joins for the first time.

1986-87 Following a reshuffle which sees Chris Powell as chief executive

and Chris Cowpe new-business director, BMP begins a stunning

new-business year. First in is pounds 15 million Comet, followed by

Texas, Clark’s Shoes, Thorn EMI and Dulux, for whom Boase vows to ’keep

the dog’. Creatively, the racy Miller Lite film for Courage dominates

and, in step with the times, the agency replaces Chas and Dave with Adam

Ant’s Goody Two Shoes for Courage Best. The mix of start-ups and

acquisitions continues: below-the-line shops Evans Hunt Scott and Granby

are bought, while Solutions in Media is founded by the media director,

Tim Cox, under Andy Tilley’s stewardship. Just as 1986 marked the

arrival of Comet, 1987 marks its departure. Channel 4 fires BMP (but

returns a year later as part of the Davidson Pearce deal). The US

beachhead is expanded with the acquisition of Ammirati and Puris. BMP

ends its second decade in seventh place in the Campaign rankings with

billings of pounds 125 million.


1988-1989 BMP’s third decade gets off to a shaky start when Alan Tilby

and Paul Leeves quit to start their own agency. Things get worse when

Paul Hogan announces he won’t be making any more Foster’s ads.

In June 1988 things look up when BMP takes over Davidson Pearce for

pounds 33 million. The only major account casualties are Fiat, Bass and

BT. The merger, in which most Davidson Pearce staff and clients are

comfortably absorbed, propels the new agency to fourth in Campaign’s

agency rankings. As the Aids scare grips the nation, BMP picks up the

pounds 4 million HEA campaign.

1989 opens with an audacious and highly leveraged pounds 102 million bid

for BMP by French agency BDDP. A war of words breaks out between Martin

Boase and BDDP’s Jean-Claude Boulet. The latter describes BMP’s

financial performance as ’unimpressive’ and ’faltering’. Boase, a fluent

French speaker, responds with ’ca ne marche pas’. More tellingly, he

describes the bid as lacking ’strategic, financial and commercial

logic,’ and concludes with the memorably dismissive phrase ,’Frog off’.

A clutch of big clients say they will review if the takeover goes ahead.

In May, Omnicom’s DDB comes in as a white knight with a successful

pounds 125 million bid. DDB’s Tony Cox becomes creative director of BMP

DDB Needham.

1990-91 First work from the new agency for DDB’s VW client appears - the

famous Tony Kaye-directed ’God Bless the Child’ commercial. In June, BMP

picks up Barclaycard. Rowan Atkinson’s first ad, ’Moscow’, sets the tone

for a hugely successful campaign. Campaign makes BMP Agency of the Year

for 1990 - for the second time. The dancing milk bottles make their

first appearance for the National Dairy Council. Incoming business

includes Terry’s of York, British Gas, Schweppes Gini, Eurotunnel and

CPC’s Bovril.

In October 1991, CPC centralises its pounds 10 million media into BMP,

kicking off what becomes a remarkable run of centralisation successes

for the media department.

1992-1993 Ads for NALGO incur the wrath of the government. Polio victim

and rock star Ian Dury is hired to appear in a disability campaign for

the DSS. On the media front, BMP picks up St Ivel and British Gas’s

pounds 15 million planning and buying account and hangs on to Dulux. The

creative, meanwhile, moves to JWT and BMP bows out with a spectacular

finale in which the dog sings My Way.

Martin Boase, once described by Campaign as the ’David Niven of British

advertising’, celebrates his 60th birthday with a party at Windsor

racecourse (where else?).

A consistently excellent year for new business, media and creative sees

BMP named Campaign’s Agency of the Year for 1992 - a unique third


The agency takes Heinz Baked Beans back on TV for the first time in

years in 1993 and wins Foster’s back from Y&R after the Burt Lancaster


Unfortunately, its ’Mad Max’ series isn’t much better. Maynards parks

its business in Paddington and shortly after the wonderfully mad

’There’s juice loose ... about this hoose’ TV ad breaks. BMP lands the

then biggest-ever media centralisation - Boots’ pounds 45 million.

1994-95 The year starts brightly with pounds 10 million of new business

from the Meat and Livestock Commission. It gets better when the BMP is

named best-performing agency at the BTVA awards, and then better still

with wins of pounds 6 million more from the DSS, pounds 10 million from

Walkers (for whom Gary Lineker later makes a stunning debut), Benckiser

and the Metropolitan Police. Jack Dee berates the penguins for John

Smith’s. BMP leads DDB’s successful Euro pitch for Sony’s dollars 65

million account. More business arrives from Walkers in 1995 - Quavers

and Doritos - while the Labour party returns to BMP, this time in an

official capacity. Dipping its toe in the water as a sponsor of the

Cambridge interactive TV trial, BMP takes the plunge and launches a

dedicated interactive unit of its own.

1995 also marks the end of BMP’s long relationship with Courage - one of

the industry’s most enduring and creatively potent - after DDB wins

Anheuser-Busch globally and BMP is forced to resign Courage.

1996-1998 Vodafone sets the ball rolling in early 1996 with its pounds

10 million branding business. The trend towards global media buying

makes BMP examine its options within a European context. This later sees

the media department break out as BMP Optimum. CPC centralises into the

new-look department. Within three months of the BSE scandal, the Meat

and Livestock Commission asks BMP to produce a campaign for beef,

followed in 1997 by the charming ’Recipe for Love’ ads. New business

from Lego, Easy jeans and Reuters arrives.

In 1997 Richard Flintham and Andy McLeod pick up D&AD gold for their

Doritos idents. Tony Blair’s post-election thank-you note to the agency

is proudly displayed in the gents loo on the first floor. BMP Optimum

powers ahead by drafting in Mark Palmer to replace Derek Morris and wins

from Spillers and Gillette. Larry Barker rejoins as creative director in

early 1998. VW’s ’affordability’ campaign sees BMP clean up at BTVA,

D&AD and Cannes in 1998. PepsiCo’s global decision to put all its

business into BBDO sees Walkers go in the summer - the only sour note in

an otherwise stunning 30th birthday year.


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