After his first full year in charge, Andrew Robertson (bottom, right) can sit back, thumbs in trademark red braces, and reflect on a remarkable 2005 for BBDO Worldwide. The Bulawayo-born Brit, who succeeded Alan Rosenshine in May of last year to become BBDO's youngest-ever chief executive, has presided over the most explosive new-business period in BBDO's parent company Omnicom's history.
Robertson's reign has also seen BBDO record its best-ever Lions haul at Cannes. Furthermore, the network has taken some early steps towards fulfilling his long-term ambition: to show the world that BBDO's famous "the work, the work, the work" mantra means more than blockbuster TV commercials.
In a three-week period in late summer, the New York office pulled in close to $1 billion in new clients. Bank of America ($600 million), Lowe's ($315 million) and AOL.com ($50 million) added up to make it Omnicom's most lucrative new-business quarter ever.
Local strength has always been a feature of BBDO's appeal (no fewer than 80 per cent of its clients are domestic). But the network has added some meaty international accounts this year: smart (pan-Europe), Schering-Plough, Motorola (both global) and eBay (US, Europe and Canada) have entered the fold.
Meanwhile, as well as beating the odds to hold on to its flagship Sainsbury's and BT accounts in the UK, BBDO has been assured that it will hang on to its treasured Gillette business, which it has held since 1966. Many thought it would lose Gillette when the company was acquired by Procter & Gamble in January. But nerves were settled last month when Tami Jones, a P&G spokeswoman, said: "It's no big secret that BBDO is an agency we feel really good about."
If only Visa could have said the same. The end of BBDO's 20-year, $350 million relationship with the financial services company last month looks like the one flaw in its case for Creative Network of the Year. Yet Visa was bent on repositioning itself as more than just a credit-card company - a change driven by the arrival of a new advertising director, chief marketing officer and chief executive. "You can survive one, perhaps two, but never three," Robertson says.
BBDO boasts no fewer than 18 "agency of the year" accolades this year, thanks to a growth strategy that has always focused on acquiring the best domestic talent. Dave Lubars (bottom, second from right), the brains behind the BMW films, who was hired from Fallon as the chief creative officer of BBDO North America last year, added to a formidable creative arsenal that includes Marcello Serpa, the creative director of AlmapBBDO in Sao Paulo. Meanwhile, Paul Brazier was promoted to creative director of Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO to give the London office some much-needed sparkle.
So it's hardly surprising that the work has been good, although the spread of awards across the network is as impressive as the work itself: 37 Lions for 30 clients from 20 different agencies at Cannes. Offices as far apart as Sao Paulo (for Volkswagen), Bangkok (Bisolax laxatives), London (The Economist), Toronto (ALS Society) and Singapore (a first-ever Lion - for Pizza Hut) helped BBDO to second place in The Gunn Report 2005.
"Compelling creative content" and "the form not the platform" are phrases Robertson has used with obsessive regularity in e-mails to his 17,000 staff as he campaigns to turn BBDO into a 21st-century communications agency.
And although the network won only one Cyber Lion this year, Robertson has a first-class direct marketing arm in Proximity Worldwide to aid his crusade. The fledgling agency brand, launched in 2003, is proving that building a creatively led international DM network is not an impossible task.
Robertson pushed hard this year to encourage BBDO's once fiercely independent agencies to work closer together. Hiring William Eccleshare (bottom, third from right) from Young & Rubicam as the chairman of BBDO Europe, and switching Chris Thomas from Proximity London to run BBDO Asia as the chief executive and chairman, were moves designed to build greater unity across the globe.
Bartle Bogle Hegarty came within a whisker of pipping BBDO to the post with a spectacular winning streak in October, when it won $400 million of new billings in a week.
The global win of Omo, Unilever's $250 million-billing detergent brand, and the London-based pitch of the year, British Airways ($117 million), further vindicated the "micro-network" model BBH has pioneered.
Smirnoff Ice, Vaseline, Google, Dunlop, and Zanussi were other multi-market triumphs, while local successes such as Dyson in the US and Bradesco in Brazil took BBH's group billings from $950 million in 2004 to $1.5 billion this year.
The agency's growth saw 100 new starters join the BBH group in 2005, taking the global staff total to 650. They include Arto Hampartsoumian, formerly the managing director of Wieden & Kennedy Tokyo, who joined to open BBH's sixth office - in Shanghai - as the chief executive in the summer.
If there was a downside to BBH's year, it was its tally of creative awards.
It suffered a lacklustre Cannes. A silver for Levi's and a bronze for Gordon's were the only Lions to take back to Kingly Street. BBH New York chipped in with a silver and three bronzes for Axe, while Neogama BBH returned to Sao Paulo with a solitary silver for Umbro.
BBDO's Omnicom sibling DDB also ran close. As it has been on numerous occasions, the agency was the most awarded at Cannes (it has more Lions than any network in the festival's history). It won 44 in total in 2005.
Unlike BBDO, DDB held on to all of its international business. Indeed, some of its biggest revenue-generators were existing clients: Johnson & Johnson, McDonald's, Philips, Volkswagen and Unilever all gave DDB more work. And although its new-business performance is no match for BBDO's, the $200 million Capital One win (in the US and UK), plus Hertz across Europe, FedEx in Latin America and Olympus across Asia, made for an impressive 12 months.
A final word should go to TBWA, which can count itself unlucky not to have figured in the chasing pack. A late flurry that saw it win Visa from BBDO, plus its top spot in The Gunn Report, made it a worthy last-minute contender.
Recent winner: BBH (2004).