Last week’s announcement by Tim Delaney and Bruce Haines that they
are finally buying Leagas Delaney from the Abbott Mead Vickers Group is
a relief all round. Ironic relief for Delaney, perhaps, as it coincides
with his former partner, Ron Leagas (who fell out with Delaney in 1985)
calling in the receivers.
The generous deal suggests AMV was not at all keen to remain in place as
what Delaney calls his ’benign backer’. Of the total pounds 4 million,
only pounds 100,000, split between five directors, is in cash. The rest
is in shares and a tax-delaying loan note.
In its 12 years with AMV, Leagas Delaney has never been a second-string
agency in the conventional sense. It doesn’t sit comfortably with AMV’s
recent acquisition strategy under which it has bought some of the best
marketing services companies. However, even with hindsight, AMV says it
would have engineered its friendly bailout again. As Peter Mead recalls,
shareholders and the City were pleased to see it going for quality and
like-mindedness in its first move after flotation.
The Delaney/Haines partnership looks like a recipe for success. Haines,
who has worked at Leagas Delaney twice (once from 1986 to 1992 when he
was installed as part of the AMV rescue package, and again from 1994)
has brought in the customers and hired quality account management to
keep them happy, while Delaney and his team have worked around the clock
to produce award-winning campaigns.
It’s not as simple as that, of course, and the agency has its turkeys
(eg Bendicks) to go with gems such as Adidas and showcase clients like
the BBC. However, it has consistently positioned itself as the place for
clients who want high-profile, uncompromising creative work. In a market
where there are plenty of agencies willing to be all things to all
people, this has earned the shop a distinct personality. Must this
attitude change now? As long as Adidas is in place, it looks
The consequences of the deal for Leagas Delaney will only become clear
with hindsight. Perhaps this is why there is a view in the industry that
we should take a longer term view of agencies’ achievements, a sort of
longevity index to rate the elite. This feeling is coming across
strongly from those agencies that have taken us to task for not being
generous enough in our assessment of their 1997 performance in our Top
300 issue last month. In some cases, it would still reveal a gulf
between an agency’s opinion of itself and the (hopefully) more
dispassionate view held by Campaign. In Leagas Delaney’s case, however,
I think there would be unanimity on its contribution to the creative
standing of the UK advertising industry over the past couple of decades.
The reason is simple: it’s one of the best.
Stefano Hatfield’s column is on page 55.