In 2003, the agency is celebrating coming of age, with the launch of its own lifestyle house magazine called Zag. The question is: does it "zig", or does it "zag"?
Well, for me BBH is a cracking agency, home to some of the best campaigns ever - but Zag has got me worried. The recent Lynx work (featuring that geeky dancing bloke) is genius. The Paddy Power posters pay out, delivering a modern take on gambling, and the KFC Soul Food work deserves to sell chicken by the bucket. These are all terrific campaigns reflecting an agency at the top of its game. But looking at Zag, you would feel it had been produced by a different bunch altogether. Instead, we get Audi, Paul Smith, Levi's and, oh, Levi's again. Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of all three but there's not much new here.
BBH is a worldwide concern these days and there's an international flavour about Zag. Is this a good thing? Multinational was a great ambition in 1982 but it's a tricky brand position these days. Was Zag really designed to be placed around first-class cabins of airlines? Perhaps it will be big in Japan.
I don't pretend to be a magazine expert. So I gave it to three people who are: Danny Eccleston, Paul Trynka and Paul Kurzeja. They've edited, or art directed, Mojo, Q and Wallpaper between them. "It's a bit thin" was the first comment. They also found it a bit difficult to navigate.
The most engaging stuff - photo spreads of interesting people wearing Levi's and groovy Asian graphics that bring to life a "proprietary research tool" - come at the end. Why not put this stuff at the beginning, they asked. The cover, a digital depiction of Samuel L Jackson, says nothing new and is not what you'd expect to find in the shop window of one of London's premier creative teams.
The Emap team was surprised that the opportunity to take the magazine format and subvert it was ignored. Why the glossy paper? Why the wordy, square-box layout? Why the Helvetica typeface? They said it's an opportunity missed and a mismatch with the BBH that they have loved.
Zag is a brave attempt to do something new but has ended up being something old - contract publishing. Colors from Benetton was a genuine attempt to challenge the genre. I'm afraid Zag zigs too much for me.
- Malcolm Cox, the marketing director at Emap Performance, was working at Capital Radio for the princely sum of £100 a week when BBH opened its doors.
Publisher: Show Media
Frequency: Twice a year
Print run: 5,000
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