CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE - Will losing the BMP name hurt the UK agency's positioning?

The name change should create greater unity in the network.

From 1 January, BMP DDB, like other DDB offices around the world, will change its name to DDB. The disappearance of such a famous brand - Boase Massimi Pollitt, as it was when I joined in 1974 - arouses strong feelings.

BMP, with J. Walter Thompson London, created account planning, and combined this with a creative reputation that was second to none. The agency was driven by strong beliefs, summed up by Martin Boase as "good advertising doesn't have to be bad". We valued effectiveness over both the demands of clients and the judgments of creative people (and backed it up by winning more IPA awards than anyone).

We believed that effective advertising did not lecture or interrupt or irritate, but charmed, involved and respected its audience's intelligence.

We saw no contradiction between the rigorous use of research to understand markets and creative work that broke conventions. At its best, the agency stood for a unique combination of intelligence and humanity.

Do I believe in these values today? I do, and I think we need more than ever to restate them. Advertisers - local or international - seem to have become more controlling, more risk averse and more analytical. Quantitative pre-testing, which once seemed a thing of the past, has made a comeback: done well it can be helpful, but done less than well it creates barriers to effective work. And the creative establishment now seems too often to reward self-indulgent work in a particular narrow style that has little to do with the creation of brand properties.

But do I therefore want to hold on to the BMP name? No. While I will mourn its passing, I think the arguments for change are overwhelming.

It is now 14 years since BMP became part of DDB. But there never really was a brand called "BMPDDBeee", except on our switchboard. To local clients and people who worked with them (and in Campaign), we were "BMP". To international clients, we were "DDB".

At first this was no big deal. But over time the ad business has become more and more international. The division between "local" and "international" clients is blurring. Today's local account becomes tomorrow's international account. We need to succeed not just locally, but as part of a global team.

So dividing our equity between two brands began to dilute both. If DDB won most awards at Cannes, the impact on BMP was minimal. Perceptions of DDB as a global network were held back. How many UK-based clients know that DDB is the second-largest agency in the world, with geographical cover second only to McCann, and a history of being top creatively?

I acquired two sets of business cards, and found it increasingly difficult to know which to use. It was a schizophrenic feeling. The turning point came when a new client on an international brand called me in some embarrassment to ask "are BMP and DDB the same, or different agencies? And which one am I working with?" That's a branding problem.

Dual branding was damaging internally too. For many in London, "we" were BMP, and therefore "they" were DDB. All international organisations have tensions between the local and the global - and ours aren't nearly as bad as others I've seen. But having two brand names exaggerates these divisions. I believe there is only one way forward - to simplify our branding to DDB.

Ironically, some see in this name change the hand of corporate management over-ruling local sensitivities. Far from being imposed, the decision was taken as a result of local management consensus. It is only because the DDB management style is not to dictate that the change did not take place earlier - as I think it should have done.

And the DDB brand is one we should be proud of.

In structure and philosophy, Doyle Dane Bernbach is the only agency in the world that compares with BMP for its impact on our business. Bill Bernbach - Ad Age's "most influential ad person of the 20th century" - was the first to put art directors and copywriters together, as Stanley Pollitt later put account managers and account planners together. The creative work his agency produced from its launch in 1949 transformed what seemed possible in advertising - in its freshness, its new language, its artistry and respect for the consumer.

I wouldn't pretend that Bill and Stanley would have agreed on everything - but in their conviction that great advertising was about people communicating with people, in ways that defy analysis and draw on art as well as psychology, they were not that far apart. I couldn't think of two better individuals to represent my own beliefs about good advertising.

None of us always lives up to our ideals. Both BMP and DDB have had their ups and downs, but both have been among the outstanding successes of the past half-century. DDB has transformed itself from New York hotshop to one of the strongest global networks, while retaining its commitment to creative excellence.

It grew by joining forces with excellent agencies around the world: BMP, DM9, Result, Palmer Jarvis and the 1986 merger with the Chicago-based Needham. With this diverse heritage DDB is a new kind of network.

I know it genuinely celebrates local initiative and distrusts too much central control. We in London can still be everything we used to be, or want to be. But we, DDB, are also one agency, and it's time everybody knew it.


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