Journalistic convention has it that the first mention of someone’s
name in an article is immediately followed by a clause describing what
they do. This contextualises them and gives legitimacy to their role in
the story. Perhaps the only exceptions occur when the individual’s fame
or reputation is so transcendent that no explanation is necessary - Tony
Blair, Richard Branson, Madonna and, not least, Trevor Beattie.
No, I’m not joking. A recent column in The Evening Standard namechecked
Trevor, without even mentioning who he was or what he did. Fame or
Clearly this was no error, for last week’s Financial Times contained
further evidence that Trevor has indeed reached the point where he is
famous, not for what he does or where he works (which is creative
director of TBWA, just in case you were wondering) but simply for being
Trevor. Commenting on French Connection’s annual results and its plans
to increase the spend on its ’fcuk’ campaign by 25 per cent, the FT
quoted its chief executive, Stephen Marks: ’I don’t even know the name
of the agency - we deal with Trevor and that’s it.’
It’s no exaggeration to say that Trevor isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But
I bow to no man in my admiration for his energy, commitment and
enthusiasm. He certainly works hard at his fame too.
And in the advertising game, where it’s harder and harder to stand out
from the pack, this gives TBWA a tremendous advantage. While I like to
think that I could articulate the differences between TBWA and any other
top 20 agency, I’d bet my shirt that the average client can’t. When it’s
impossible to put a cigarette paper between most agencies, having a
high-profile individual such as Trevor is unquestionably a good thing.
How many admen or women are there who have a genuine fame beyond
Maurice, Charles, David Ogilvy, Frank Lowe and John Hegarty
But even at the height of his powers you couldn’t really say David
Abbott had that currency.
There’s no doubt either that the Trevor effect is paying dividends for
TBWA. Just last week we reported that it had won Dr Martens and Liberty
- no coincidence that they are a couple of fashion brands looking for a
son of Wonderbra or fcuk. Thanks to Trevor, TBWA is now the agency in
town for small and groovy clients who want a bit of in-yer-face yoof
appeal. But not everybody does, and the powers that be at Omnicom
certainly didn’t put it on earth for that purpose alone.
No, as far as they’re concerned, its role in life is to serve big or
multinational clients - everyone else is just the icing on the cake.
This is where the Trevor effect is in danger of becoming a double-edged
If Trevor is becoming TBWA, is that the same as saying TBWA is
Having your fortunes tied closely to those of one individual - and it’s
irrelevant whether it’s by choice or not - is a risky game to play. The
advantages are clear and significant, the disadvantages less clear but
no less significant.