Editorial: AMV thrives on mixture of creativity and civility

David Abbott, Peter Mead and Adrian Vickers must be very proud of their advertising creation. Thirty years after it began trading, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO is the biggest agency in the country, still churning out some of the best creative work in town.

Time has not ravaged the agency's adherence to high creative standards and, as all the rulebooks claim, this has led to unquestionable business success.

But it wasn't just about creative integrity. Today, Abbott claims it was set up as a refuge for broken admen. It's an unusual articulation for what has been an agency that truly believed in looking after its staff. Mead phrases the agency philosophy as "creativity and civility". Attention to staff needs has played a central role in the success of AMV.

It hasn't all been plain sailing, however. The agency went through an uncomfortable period in 2000, when, like most of its peers, it was hit hard by the dotcom bust. For the first time in its trading history, it decided to make staff redundant, something it had been able to avoid in the leaner times a decade earlier.

It was a major challenge to AMV's culture and represented what is always an uneasy evolution from privately owned agency to Omnicom subsidiary. Since 2000, AMV has got tougher, as the market around it has forced more ruthless working conditions.

As a result, if the new AMV is a little less cosy than it once was, it's also more lean and competitive. Its successful repitch for Sainsbury's two years ago is perhaps the best example of the shop's ability to attract and retain domestic business. More than any of its publicly owned peer group, AMV has demonstrated its ability to compete in the domestic market, which is generally inclined towards local hotshops. This year, wins from Birds Eye and Clarks bear this out. And in creative terms, although the agency isn't what it once was, the Grand Prix in Cannes last year for Guinness shows it's still a leading force in global terms.

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