Campaign Supplement on BMP DDB 1968-1998: Trivia. Gold bars, cricket, the ’crooning’ planner and an alcoholic dwarf ... the other side of BMP’s history



BMP’s first showreel was actually Pritchard Wood’s - with John Webster’s


BMP tea ladies have always been a legend in their own, er, tea-break.

Pat McLaughlan, who ran the trolley in the 80s, was an assiduous buyer

of shares before the agency went public. When it did, in 1983, they were

worth pounds 13,700. The current tea lady, Mary O’Tea, was a member of

Campaign’s 30-year fantasy agency.

Stanley Pollitt was at one time media director of Pritchard Wood as well

as research director. Not a lot of people know that.

BMP once wanted to film two trolleys of gold bars - worth approximately

pounds 90 million - for an Alliance & Leicester ad. Not surprisingly,

the Bank of England refused to lend the gold. Searching for an

alternative, BMP discovered that Harrods gold-wrapped praline chocolate

made an acceptable substitute. It bought 1,000 boxes at pounds 8 a box.

The chocolate was given to St Ormond’s Street Hospital afterwards.

In the 70s, the myth grew up that BMP hired staff on the basis of their

cricketing ability - a myth based on the fact that Stanley Pollitt and

John Webster were cricket fanatics. The creative department once ran a

job ad saying ’Wicketkeeper wanted. Copywriting skills an asset.’

Notwithstanding Stanley Pollitt’s 60-a-day habit, BMP pitched for the

then Health Education Council’s anti-smoking account. Pollitt was

prevailed upon to abstain during the pitch, but like all addicts

temporarily deprived of their fix, he drank copious amounts of water. So

great was his need that by the end of the meeting he was drinking

straight from the jug - thus demonstrating the need for such a campaign.

Needless to say, BMP didn’t win the pitch.

Billco boss Bill Lea has two of the world’s largest collection of

obscure ephemera: sickbags and prostitute’s telephone-box advertising

cards. Lea also was once arrested and spent two nights in Harrow Green

police station for screening ’pirated’ videos in the in-house cinema.

Charges were subsequently dropped.

Tonto, Arkwright’s acrobatic dog in the much-loved John Smith’s ’two

words’ ad, was actually called Becky. Unfortunately Becky/Tonto refused

to stand on her/his front legs for the key tricks sequence in the

commercial. The production company, Park Village, had to get a false

pair of legs made instead.

Although it was never written about, in 1980 Saatchi & Saatchi

approached Martin Boase about a possible takeover. At the time, Allen

Brady and Marsh was in the ascendancy, and the idea was to put together

a serious counterweight. Boase and the other BMP shareholders turned the

offer down. Unabashed, Saatchis then returned and offered Boase

chairmanship of the agency on his own.

BMP staff voted the Guardian’s ’Points of View’ ad their all-time

favourite. However, the ad, which was inspired by the way different

newspapers interpreted the sinking of the Belgrano, originally started

off as a street fight. In the first script a black teenager is screaming

on the ground. Next we see a policeman standing over him wielding a

truncheon. When the camera pulls back we see the policeman is trying to

protect the black youth from a white skinhead. ’As you can imagine,’

says Webster, ’this ad was turned down for approximately five hundred


A 1991 issue of BMP’s house magazine, the Bridge, featured a

question-and-answer session with John Webster. To the question ’what

clothes do you feel most comfortable in?’ Webster was photographed

sitting on a sofa drinking a cup of tea - wearing a dress. In the same

interview Webster claimed the ’best decision’ he ever made was ’turning

down an lbw appeal against Geoff Boycott when he was batting for BMP’.

Boycott, he said, was probably out but went on to make 98.

Planning supremo Paul Feldwick won the BRAD Advertising Mastermind

challenge in 1981- which won’t surprise anyone who knows him. What will

is the fact that in 1982 he recorded a song called Lunchtime Love Affair

under the name Paul Feldwick and the Cartoons.

Mike Greenlees, now president of the sister Omnicom network, TBWA

Worldwide, acquired the nickname ’Legsy’ when a letter arrived for him

at BMP addressed to ’Mr Greenlegs’.

A survey of BMP staff produced a list of the agency’s biggest turkeys.

The list was topped by the ’Hitchhiker’ ad for Foster’s starring Burt

Lancaster in a reprise of his Texan millionaire role in Local Hero.

Second came a less well-known ad for Geest in which Michael Elphick

invited viewers to ’unzip a banana’. On reflection, many BMP staff

thought the banana ad was significantly worse.

Art director Dave Christensen was once famously fired as part of an

economy measure. But he refused to leave, kept turning up to work

without pay and was eventually rehired.

The wooden bannister leading from the front door to BMP’s reception cost

pounds 25,000 to make in 1971. It was so expensive - the Pentagram

designer, Theo Crosby, insisted it could only be made from thousands of

small bits of wood stuck together - that the agency nearly had to make

redundancies as a result.

One for the anoraks: in its time, BMP has proved a more fertile breeding

ground for staff going on to launch their own start-ups than any other

agency. One theory is that they find it easier to start their own

agencies than to work somewhere else. In no particular order they

include: Geoff Howard-Spink; Mike Greenlees and Dave Trott; Tim Delaney;

Leslie Butterfield, Michael Hockney and Derek Day; Alan Tilby and Paul

Leeves; Jane Newman; Graham Collis; Graham Rose and John Hackney; Jon

Madell and Hamish Pringle; Barnaby Spurrier; Damian O’Malley; Derek

Morris, Andy Tilley and Ivan Pollard; Adam Lury; Gary Duckworth; Leon

Jaume; and Charlie Robertson.

George the Hofmeister Bear was originally a vertically challenged

ex-circus performer called Ivan who became an alcoholic and was replaced

by a woman. George, of course, went on to become a male boozer’s


The Honey Monster once starred in his own panto, the Yellow Welly Show,

at the end of Bournemouth Pier.


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