In 1995, Gary Lineker was signed up as the face of Walkers crisps. In that same year, a fresh-faced Jon Peppiatt left CDP, which he’d joined in the post room eight years earlier, to take up a project management role at Bartle Bogle Hegarty. In time, he’d eventually rise from this back-office job to the position of chairman and, ultimately, following the founders' departure, become the face, heart and soul of one of the world’s most famous ad agency brands.
Last week, it was revealed that the charismatic Peppiatt would be leaving the agency later this year. This follows a 25-year stint that even outlasted his grandfather Major Sir Kenneth Oswald Peppiatt, who was chief cashier of the Bank of England from 1934 to 1949 – one of its longest-standing incumbents.
Peppiatt was an unlikely post boy – educated at Winchester College, obviously pretty posh, quite louche (these factors would probably not work in his favour in the current climate) – but incredibly charming, passionate about BBH and "the work", and immense fun: qualities that are sometimes in short supply in the industry. I defy you to find anyone with a bad word to say about him.
He was also part of a uniquely successful management team, alongside Ben Fennell, Charlie Rudd and Nick Gill, that helped steer BBH through the 2008 recession and on to a new golden era for the agency that saw it win Campaign’s Agency of the Year in 2011 and 2012. He’s the last of that cabal to leave the agency, following the completion of its sale to Publicis Groupe, and he’s irreplaceable to BBH. It’s impossible to imagine the agency without him.
And what of Lineker? The news that Walkers has dropped Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO after 22 years (BMP DDB had introduced him as brand spokesman) is a bitter blow to the agency, having lost BT last year and Camelot the year before, but with scant evidence of much to replace them. Its work was also of a consistently high standard.
While Walkers owner PepsiCo told Campaign that its relationship with Lineker was continuing, the comments from Walkers marketing director Fernando Kahane were revealing. He said: "Our challenge is very clear: we need to connect with people on an emotional level by inspiring everyday moments of enjoyment. A fresh perspective will help us remain relevant in modern Britain." A footballer-turned-TV-pundit who turns 60 this year might not be the best person to do this.
If they’re after emotion, inspiration and enjoyment, then Peppiatt might be available?
Jeremy Lee is consulting editor at Campaign