TOP PERFORMERS OF 1996: AGENCY OF THE YEAR: AMV BBDO - For an unprecedented second successive year, Abbott Mead takes the top accolade for its continued creative excellence and long-sighted management

Maybe it’s tempting fate to say so, but Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO - Agency of the Year for an unprecedented second successive time - seems to have brilliantly belied the ill-luck that’s supposed to accompany the accolade.

Maybe it’s tempting fate to say so, but Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO -

Agency of the Year for an unprecedented second successive time - seems

to have brilliantly belied the ill-luck that’s supposed to accompany the


Time was when a superstitious chairman bracketed his agency’s winning of

the title with the curse of Hello! magazine and would shake off his

celebratory hangover only to worry when his biggest client would fire

him or the building would burn down.

The curse of Campaign? Don’t believe it. Abbott Mead completed its most

successful year in 1996. Through a combination of consistency and

single-mindedness it will probably not be denied number one billing

status for much longer. Moreover, the powerful claims of this year’s

chief pretenders to its crown make the triumph more remarkable.

St Luke’s, this year’s runner-up, has successfully translated innovative

working methods into its advertising. Of the contenders shortlisted for

Campaign of the Year, four were from the agency that emerged following a

management buyout from Chiat Day only 15 months ago.

Having retained all its clients since then, with an 80 per cent

pitch-conversion rate and pounds 14 million worth of new business, St

Luke’s has the look of a young agency in a hurry. Innovative work on

Boots No 7, BBC Radio 1, Ikea and Eurostar suggests it has the creative

potency to match its ambition.

In third place, M&C Saatchi was well able to advance its case on the

back of pounds 70 million worth of new business headed by Pedigree

Petfoods, Foster’s and the Sainsbury’s Bank, plus the international

Packard Bell business. Meanwhile Whiskas, the Conservative Party and

Silk Cut went some way to improving the agency’s creative


In a strong year we feel we should also commend Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper,

fashioned into a real force on the London advertising scene by Brett

Gosper and Mark Wnek; and Lowe Howard-Spink, perhaps overlooked because

of its consistent excellence, but which this year added an improved

new-business performance to its achievement in launching the Western

media brand. Also: Publicis, for its new-business record; Saatchi and

Saatchi for its continued resilience; and Young and Rubicam for its

comeback from the brink of disaster.

However, the consistent excellence of Abbott Mead’s work for difficult

major clients swung the decision. An impressive record pounds 42.5

million worth of new business was mirrored in an outstanding financial

performance with group profits of pounds 10.4 million on a pounds 287

million turnover. The agency also won more top creative awards than ever


There’s no secret to its success. Abbott Mead is simply a grown-up

agency that does a lot of things very well. The range of its creative

output is testimony to a department broad enough to accommodate seasoned

talent and young blood. Its plans to ensure management continuity

stretch well into the next millennium.

At the same time, a shrewd and consistent acquisition policy has led to

the emergence of a formidable communications group extended last year by

the formation of a media dependant, New PHD, the takeover of the

corporate and finance PR specialist, Fishburn Hedges, with the prospect

of a move into strategic consultancy to follow.

The results are seductive to new and existing clients. It’s certainly no

coincidence that Abbott Mead’s 1996 new-business record is a good mix of

fresh accounts - including the Prudential, W. H. Smith, Dulux and

Wrangler - and extra assignments from existing clients, among them BT,

which showed its confidence in the agency with three new pieces of

business totalling pounds 9 million.

BT is the prime example of the agency’s skill at assimilating big and

demanding clients and leading them down creative paths they previously

feared to tread. ’It’s good to talk’ may have split industry opinion,

particularly after it carried off the Grand Prix at the IPA

Effectiveness Awards, but the sheer volume of such ubiquitous

advertising should not detract from Abbott Mead’s success at handling

such a complex piece of business. It produced 67 commercials between

January and September last year for the client.

And who would ever have believed that such a huge company as Mars could

have been gently shaken out of its conservatism to accept Star Wars’

Darth Vader to front a Tunes commercial?

Such clients now add an even greater diversity to an agency showreel

which can embrace the always well-crafted Sainsbury’s, popular

favourites such as Pizza Hut and now the W. H. Smith work, along with

the industry-admired campaigns for Volvo and the Economist. Meanwhile,

its ’kill your speed’ commercial for the Department of Transport

featuring video footage of children killed in road accidents is one of

the most moving and effective public information films ever made.

In its creative department, as elsewhere, Abbott Mead has shown how a

combination of continuity and carefully grafted new talent is the key to

success - not least at the top where Peter Souter is being quietly

groomed to succeed David Abbott as the keeper of the creative flame and

Peter Mead takes Abbott’s place as group chairman in a seamless transfer

of power.

Equally significant is the fact that while half the agency’s staffers

have been on board for less than three years, a high proportion have

clocked up 15 years or more. Its reputation as a humane and generous

employer makes it the agency where everyone wants to work. It’s what

Abbott Mead puts back into the business that makes it such a worthy

industry leader.

Recent winners: Abbott Mead (1995); HHCL (1994); Bartle Bogle Hegarty

(1993); BMP DDB Needham (1992).