Campaign Supplement on BMP DDB 1968-1998: Introduction

This foreword could more aptly be called a backword. We are, after all, celebrating the past: 30 years of bright ideas that have inspired and influenced not only the UK advertising scene, but business and culture more widely.

This foreword could more aptly be called a backword. We are, after

all, celebrating the past: 30 years of bright ideas that have inspired

and influenced not only the UK advertising scene, but business and

culture more widely.

Now, public chest-beating like this is not really a BMP thing to do. If

memory serves, we ignored our tenth, held some sort of staff meeting for

our 20th, and for our 25th had a drink (yes, one) and a piece of cake at

work. So this supplement to Campaign and the Albert Hall shenanigan are

a rather shocking change of pace. At this rate, goodness knows what will

be done to celebrate 50 years.

Which begs the question: what makes us think the agency will be around

for a 50th? Three things really. First, evidence would suggest that the

agency is stronger than it’s ever been with more good people doing more

good work for more good clients than ever before.

After all, we’ve won more awards - both for creativity and effectiveness

- and more new business over the last year than at any time in our


The talent and the momentum are there to continue getting stronger.

Second, at 30, people (well, all right, most people, even in

advertising) understand themselves and what makes them tick, what values

matter to them, and how they have got to where they are. It is a time of

self-confidence and ambition, but now tempered by the realism of

experience. The same can go for a company. Like a lot of 30-year-olds,

BMP has established its character, its point of view, its sense of what

it is good at, and can increasingly deploy these qualities on a bigger


What is more, when only 21, BMP married into a good family with growing

international connections, which increased its potential.

BMP DDB, despite its name’s alphabetic jumble, can be secure in its

sense of self and in its culture. Combining the best of the American

creative revolution, whose most eloquent standard-bearer was Bill

Bernbach, with the best of the subsequent flowering of British

advertising has given us a formidable platform to take on the world.

And third, there’s the simple truth that what fuelled the first 30

years’ success remains the foundation of our future development. This is

the fact that although, like almost all other agencies, ours was

unimaginatively named after the founders, it was always different. It

was never ’there’s these three bright blokes and they’ve started up

somewhere new’.

From the start, it was a fundamentally different approach. This has had

two effects. First, it has attracted a quite disproportionate share of

talent to work at BMP, because they wanted to be part of this new way of

doing things. Second, this new template has gone on to reshape

advertising agencies around the world.

The mixture of Stanley’s Pollitt’s innovation of account planning,

Martin Boase’s open and accessible management style and John Webster’s

intuitive brilliance has attracted and, more remarkably, kept a quite

unfair share of talent at BMP. To have so many highly talented people

who have worked together for so long is the secret weapon of BMP.

Perhaps this whole birthday indulgence thing could become acceptable if

we see it not as a celebration of the past, but as an end to a first

chapter - the bit you need to get through before the exciting stuff that

is to follow.

Even so, BMP is going to feel uncomfortable with such


Hardly the reaction the public might expect from an advertising agency,

but then the place has always been a refuge from false braggadocio.

Boasting gets mocked: ’What’s the evidence that you’re any good?’;

’Let’s see your work and what it’s achieved.’ It’s the constant

questioning that keeps it good, keeps it moving forward.

But perhaps we can allow ourselves this one brief moment of celebration,

as long as we don’t really enjoy it.

So, maybe a backword can also be a foreword, James Best and Chris


P.S. We’d like to thank the Campaign staff and all the other budding

authors and designers who have put this supplement together. A special

thanks also to the 30-year-old Time Out for being our sponsor.

P.P.S. We are in awe of the BMP people and their helpers who dared to

put on a party at the Albert Hall, but then we always had difficulty

even putting on a party at our own offices.


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