The marriage of Paul Bainsfair with John Sharkey is considered one
of adland’s hottest pairings - it was born out of Saatchis’ most
successful period, after all. But, let’s be honest, there are also
whispers of ’Sharkey by name shark by nature.’ So Campaign decided to
give the new joint chairmen of BDDP GGT - the agency formed last week
from the merger of BST-BDDP with GGT - the opportunity to address the
issues and the innuendo head on.
Your initials have been left out of the new agency’s name. Are you sad
PB It’s never been a big thing for us to have our name over the
GGT is a valued brand and it’s probably a better name for us to go
forward with than BST.
Haven’t you just been taken over by GGT?
JS No, we are the people who did it along with the GGT guys. Neither
side feels it’s a takeover.
PB We’re also lucky in that the two agencies are remarkably
complementary, not just in terms of the clients but also in terms of
management strengths and the creative product. We tend to produce cool,
stylish work, whereas GGT’s tends to be bouncy, more laddish.
An agency ought to be able to do both.
Every time Campaign hinted at a merger after Mike Greenlees bought BDDP,
we’d get a stroppy phonecall from your side to say we were wrong.
JS You have a duty to your clients and to your people to be either on or
off. It would have destabilised the agency if we had said, ’OK, give us
a couple of months and we’ll get there.’
So why is now the right time?
JS It became clear gradually. There was sufficient time between the
acquisition of BDDP by GGT for them to feel they knew people and clients
Also the merger of Tequila (BDDP) with Option One (GGT) which preceded
this went successfully. We know the Tequila people and their experience
was an indicator for us.
PB Our people see it as a genuine step up to a bigger stage, and that
gave us confidence.
When did you start talking seriously to Mike Greenlees?
JS Well ... it was a couple of months ago.
PB We had discussed it earlier but backed off.
You were presumably holding out for a better price?
JS No, no.
PB That isn’t true. Money was never a problem in agreeing the deal, it
was more the fit - jobs, making sure everybody came out well.
People have accused you of being motivated only by money. How do you
answer this charge?
PB It’s nonsense. Maybe it’s displacement - if we’re good at making
money we can’t be good at making ads. When we were at Saatchis we came
top of the creative as well as the new-business league and that’s how we
judge our effectiveness. We’re in the business because we love the
business of advertising. We’ve won awards, we can point to our work for
Classic FM, Marlboro, Kew Gardens and Waterstone’s.
JS It’s not what our clients say, nor what our people think.
What’s been the most painful part of the merger so far?
PB People losing their jobs. I don’t know what we can say about Tom
(Hudson, BST’s creative director) yet because he may decide to come with
us. Whatever happens, he’s the one that we’re thinking of most.
JS It’s his choice, he wants some time to reflect.
What lessons have you taken out of the TBWA Simons Palmer merger?
JS The sooner you get together physically, the less likely you are to
have major problems.
PB We also benefited from Trevor’s involvement. He was clear about where
they got it wrong and it was mostly to do with handling people.
How would you describe the cultural differences between BST and GGT?
JS People like to spend time that could be profitably spent on clients’
business, thinking about what their culture might be. It would be
possible to exaggerate minor differences into large ones but we’re not
going to encourage anybody to speculate, we hope they’ll be too damn
PB There’s a self-confidence about the two agencies. Ours is to do with
the fact that we’ve come a long way quickly, theirs is to do with the
heritage of GGT.
Does the ghost of Dave Trott haunt you?
PB That was all a long time ago.
You have inherited many senior managers at GGT who will need to be
accommodated along with your own partners. How big will the BDDP GGT
PB We’re not sure yet, but anyone who’s a board director of BST will be
a board director there.
We do have a lots of senior people and I say ’hooray’ to that - clients
like people who understand their business.
How will you divide your roles as joint chairmen?
JS By accounts, half and half, as we do here.
Does working with Trevor Beattie hold any fears for you?
PB Far from it. We come from a long line of ’interesting’ creative
directors - Dave Trott, Paul Arden, James Lowther and Jeff Stark - and
we prefer to work with interesting, by which I mean talented, creative
directors. Perhaps in our previous relationships with other people we
did not do enough spadework in that area. We got together very quickly
with Dave Trott and, had we spent more time together, we would have
realised it wasn’t a marriage made in heaven.
You have signed one-year contracts. How long will this keep you
PB It should be long term. We have been running BST for the past seven
years and we’ve rather got the hang of it. This is a new challenge and
we relish it.
JS I wasn’t bored before this happened, it had never crossed my mind,
although I was 50 last week. The prospect of being bored while you work
in advertising seems pretty remote.