CRAFT: PROFILE - Team of contrasts scoops the Levi’s prize at BBH/Caroline Marshall explains how attention to craft skills unites an odd creative duo

Rosie Arnold and Will Awdry sit in their sleek Bartle Bogle Hegarty office musing on one of the surprising side-effects of winning awards. ’People’s attitude to you changes,’ Arnold says. ’They are more prepared to listen to what you say and to accept your judgment, it gives you more power.’

Rosie Arnold and Will Awdry sit in their sleek Bartle Bogle Hegarty

office musing on one of the surprising side-effects of winning awards.

’People’s attitude to you changes,’ Arnold says. ’They are more prepared

to listen to what you say and to accept your judgment, it gives you more

power.’



She is referring to the Levi’s ’shrink to fit’ series which recently

earned the team three Campaign Poster awards, including the overall best

campaign, and a Cannes gold. The work came out of a bit of well-timed

opportunism: ’We had an idea on shrink to fit,’ Arnold says, ’so we

showed it to John (Hegarty) because we heard a brief was coming up.’



While their initial idea didn’t survive, Hegarty was sufficiently

impressed to award them the brief. The final result - striking montages

showing a tiny man confronted by a giant spider, dog and foot - takes as

its inspiration the 1957 film, the Incredible Shrinking Man, and is the

result of the marriage of Arnold’s art direction, Awdry’s copywriting,

Nadav Kander’s photography and typography by BBH’s Andy Bird.



Both BBH board members, both in their mid-30s, Arnold and Awdry have a

grown-up, unassuming air which is underpinned by a steely professional

fervour. She’s a vivacious whirlwind; he’s very tall and more

reflective, bookish even. In fact, their appearances could serve as a

form of shorthand for their working partnership: ’I talk a lot and Will

bandages his ears!’ Arnold says. ’Will always brings it back to what

we’re trying to achieve.’



Awdry, the copywriter, describes Arnold as ’an amazingly generative

person’, paying tribute to her ability to juggle a career with the

demands of two young boys.



Awdry started out with a two-year stint as an account executive at

McCormick Publicis. His first copywriting job, in 1986, was at BBH where

he partnered Martin Galton: their work included Levi’s ’procession’ and

’melt together’ for Haagen-Dazs. Later on, when Galton left for the head

of art post at Leagas Delaney, Awdry teamed up with Arnold.



In 1994 Tim Delaney approached him to join Leagas Delaney as head of

copy. There, he worked with Dave Dye, Gary Denham and, again, Martin

Galton.



While he clearly relished the professional challenge, he chooses his

words very carefully when explaining his return to BBH, in 1996, where

he rejoined Arnold.



’Leagas Delaney deinstitutionalised me after nine years at BBH,’ he

says.



’But it was an experiment that didn’t quite work, mostly because I

fancied having a home life. I’m less emotional about BBH than I was

first time round, leaving enabled me to separate my emotional from my

professional attitude to the agency.’



Arnold joined the agency when it opened its doors in 1983, straight from

Central St Martins where she graduated in graphic design. She accepts

she is regarded as part of the band dubbed ’BBH lifers’, but is

extremely loyal to the agency where she has won awards consistently

while managing usually to go home at a reasonable hour to spend time

with her boys. Arnold, the Kilburn mum, is less raunchy than her

industry reputation.



She refuses to accept the view that the agency’s ’look’ (by which rivals

mean the instantly recognisable, highly polished, ’art directed’ tone of

the agency reel) needs updating in the more eclectic creative

environment of the 90s.



’I challenge that view,’ she says. ’I think the BBH style is to do

things incredibly well and confidently.’ (In fact, some of the work she

has done with Awdry - for instance, the low-budget adult literacy films

for the BBC, and the sexy Elida Faberge Addiction ’fax’ spots - give the

lie to the view that BBH’s output is self-consciously stylised.)



Like Awdry, who cares about the craft of copywriting to a degree that is

rare today, she is a perfectionist who is rarely satisfied with her own

work. It’s a trait that makes her shy of revealing the full extent of

her much-garlanded back catalogue.



Arnold’s portfolio, like Awdry’s, has Levi’s as a consistent high

point.



As well as the shrink-to-fit posters, there is the ’just add water’

press campaign (created on her own) and the ’Mary Ellen Mark’ press

campaign (created in 1994, with her then writer, Charles Hendley).

Delving into the mists of time, she was also responsible for the

’dealing room’ Levi’s commercial that became one of the seminal images

of the yuppie era of advertising.



An earlier career landmark, with the writer, Derek Payne, was the

’smooth running’ TV and cinema campaign for Pretty Polly. It showed a

girl fixing a fan belt with her stocking and picked up two BTAA silvers

and a D&AD nomination. Another highlight was ’toast’ for Radio Rentals

which drew on her experience as a mother and featured every parent’s

toast-in-the-video nightmare.



On the subject of D&AD nominations, Arnold is the first to admit that

she has amassed quite a few without making it through to the pencil

round.



To her enormous credit, it is a subject she can laugh about - although

she is quick to list ’picking up a few pencils’ as one of her remaining

professional ambitions.



The others include a stint as creative director, but ’later on’ because,

as she puts it, ’what excites me now is doing the work, not power,

meetings and helping other people’.



Probably her biggest frustration is the one shared by half the creatives

in London: not getting enough work out.



Awdry is just as ambitious: ’I’d ultimately like some stripes on my

shoulder’, he says. Few doubt that they will both make it.