To most, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO is an advertising agency-led
group that has prospered by sticking to its knitting and knowing where
it is going. As such, the traditionalists have applauded it.
But the group is far more modernist in its approach to the integration
issue than the people who criticised it for its lack of acquisitive
passion in the late 80s would have believed possible.
The AMV vision of integration is more about building a group of
complementary companies than about frantic cross-selling of services.
AMV’s companies include Barraclough Hall Woolston Gray (direct
marketing), Clarke Hooper (sales promotion), Freud Communications (PR)
and Redwood (contract publishing).
Its latest purchase - as of last month - is the direct marketing
hotshop, Craik Jones Watson Mitchell Voelkel, which is best known for
its much-awarded Land Rover work. Michael Baulk, AMV’s group chief
executive, explains the group’s vision.
You now own companies in every area from publishing to direct
Any gaps left?
The starting point is to understand our business, which we define as
’persuasive communications’. We’re not going to bid for Midland Bank but
any legitimate communications skill is an opportunity for us. We have
the principal specialisms covered, but the major gaps are sports
sponsorship, event management and market research. If the right
opportunity came up, we’d consider going downstream into database
management and fulfilment.
What do you say to the people who criticised the AMV group for sitting
on the sidelines and a lack of acquisitions in the late 80s?
We were also criticised for not borrowing money! Well, I’d point to our
group policy throughout our 11 years as a public company, which has been
to be discriminating in our partners. We have never chased volume or
profits at the expense of best practice.
With Barraclough Hall Woolston Gray and Craik Jones you now seem to have
rather a lot of companies in the same area.
We’ve owned BHWG for five years now. It’s a fantastic company with a
brilliant growth record. Craik Jones is more creatively focused and its
growth has been more gentle.
BMP DDB has recently taken on some experienced direct marketing
creatives to work within the advertising agency. Have you considered
doing the same?
Not really. My approach is that I’m running a large public company and I
want to be able to see revenue and profit yields from direct
I see it as a separate sector and as a tremendous opportunity because
it’s growing at two times the rate of advertising.
When was the last time you responded to a piece of direct mail?
That’s a tough one. It was something my wife did at my request. Charity
Christmas cards - we were mailed about a month ago.