CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE/MILES CALCRAFT BRIGINSHAW DUFFY - First AMV breakaway leaves its parent unruffled/The start-up aims to be a top 30 agency within five years, Jade Garrett reports

On 1 June, Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy will open its doors for business on Great Titchfield Street without a single client to service (Campaign, 7 May). In doing so, it marks the first breakaway agency in Abbott Mead Vickers’ 21-year history.

On 1 June, Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy will open its doors for

business on Great Titchfield Street without a single client to service

(Campaign, 7 May). In doing so, it marks the first breakaway agency in

Abbott Mead Vickers’ 21-year history.

The date is a significant one for the new partners. It will be 50 years,

to the day, since Doyle Dane Bernbach opened its doors. ’Not that we’d

be so arrogant as to draw any comparisons,’ Jeremy Miles, AMV’s

vice-chairman and the new agency’s chairman, says, ’but if we’re

one-tenth as successful I’ll be a very happy man.’

Miles’ co-founders are Helen Calcraft, AMV’s business development

director, who becomes the managing director, and the award-winning

creatives, Paul Briginshaw and Malcolm Duffy, who will be creative


Without exception, all four partners say AMV has been a great place to

work and agree that what they will miss most is their colleagues. So why


’When you work at AMV, you work with the best and you leave when you

feel you have nowhere else to go,’ Miles says. ’I peaked at AMV. I’ve

spent nine years of my life working on Sainsbury’s, five years on BT and

11 years on The Economist. Where do you go from there, other than


’AMV has been a very safe and happy place to work,’ Calcraft, who has

been at AMV for ten years, adds. ’But there has been a certain

predictability about working there. After a while you switch to

autopilot. It’s number one but it’s not young, fresh and hungry like we

are. If AMV is Gary Lineker, we will be Michael Owen.’

Miles describes the agency as a ’grown-up start-up’ which may be partly

financed by AMV. ’At this time the partners hold all of the equity with

the exception of a small holding by David Abbott,’ he says. AMV is keen

to negotiate a significant equity stake but at this stage, it looks


The partners are setting themselves up as a no-nonsense agency and don’t

pull any punches about the task ahead of them.

’At the last count, I think there were 208 agencies in ten square miles

of London and now we have to demonstrate our credentials,’ Miles


’We will offer creative talent, brain power and experience that spans a

very long time.’ ’We will be creatively led,’ he continues ’but we’re

not going to be different for difference sake. We know what we are and

we won’t pretend to be something we’re not, just to differentiate

ourselves from the competition.’

The partners aim to be a top 30 agency within five years.

Martin Jones, managing director of the Advertising Agency Register,

says: ’There is massive competition in the market - it’s fiercer than

ever. Clients have a lot less time to get to know their agencies and

initially their problem will be awareness.’

So will they be relying on the AMV name to generate new business? ’Paul

and I have worked at six other agencies, so we’re not just the product

of AMV,’ Duffy says. They met at DMB&B and have worked together for more

than 16 years at agencies including Grey, Geers Gross and Colman


They were made joint heads of the creative department at CDP in


The following year they were hired by David Abbott.

’We’re not looking to recreate AMV,’ Calcraft adds. ’We will be

independent and we hope soon to be pitching against AMV for new


Sholto Douglas-Home, director of marketing and communications at the New

Millennium Experience Company, worked with Miles on BT for the five

years that he ran the account. ’The four partners represent a good mix

and the AMV pedigree will be a powerful asset, but they need to decide

what their offering is. You can’t just rely on the AMV name, there has

to be more substance to it than that.’

How significant the breakaway is to AMV remains to be seen. Michael

Baulk, the agency chairman, will know exactly what conclusions people

will be drawing and it won’t be helpful. Talk of the BT pitch and loss

of Sainsbury’s will re-surface and people will question whether the

agency is the force it was five years ago.

’AMV is an excellent, large company and this breakaway isn’t going to

change that,’ Nigel Marsh, client services director at DMB&B and a board

account director at AMV from 1989 to 1997, says. ’However it would be

silly to deny that this is the latest in a series of changes that is

altering the nature of the agency.’

Baulk sees things differently. ’We will not buckle because four nice

people decide to leave,’ he says. ’AMV is capable of not breaking its

stride because of this. We work in an industry which thrives on its own

regeneration and that has to apply to us too. We’ve known about it for

some time and we’ve been able to plan for it. Their departure can be

handled without looking outside the agency.’

And how does he rate their chances of success? ’I think they are likely

to be very successful. They were all important people at AMV. Jeremy has

a natural affinity to the business, he has it in his blood. He has so

many assets for success, the best of which is his ability to build


Jones is convinced of their ability to succeed. ’I’m absolutely sure of

it,’ he says. ’I think we’ll see them on pitch-lists with the likes of

JWT, BMP, Lowes and Saatchi & Saatchi. They have the opportunity to be a

quality agency if they don’t allow themselves to be pigeon-holed.’

The partners have a wish-list of hirings, the first being a female

strategy director who will join in the next couple of months. Last

week’s D&AD awards night has already provoked a few unsolicited


One of the most difficult hurdles might be adjusting to life after a big

agency and the comfort zone it provides.