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Bartle Bogle Hegarty slashes New York staff – does this mean that the global BBH dream is over?

Bartle Bogle Hegarty is cutting about a third of its staff in New York, the end result of a process which has seen lots of top managers depart and, more to the point, some big clients.

Latest to be tipped over the side of this rather leaky vessel is CEO Greg Anderson.

Here’s what BBH group CEO Gwyn Jones (left), who seems to have drawn the short straw as purveyor of corporate bad tidings, says (its a bit wordy but you can detect the pain):

“We have had a very up and down year in New York. Some real breakthroughs and creative highs for clients like AXE, Google, Cole Haan, UNICEF and our recent appointment to The Weather Channel Companies, all under the creative leadership of John Patroulis – coupled with some real challenges on the business side: the loss of Sprite earlier in the year, and some unexpected and significant volatility recently in revenues from existing clients.

“In this context we think it is the right time to push ahead with a restructuring of the business, reflecting the need all agencies face to keep their cost base as variable as possible, and as part of this, we will be forced to announce a number of redundancies. We are not disclosing the number of people affected but, given these circumstances, CEO Greg Andersen, who helped evolve BBH into an agency built for the modern media landscape, has volunteered to resign and pursue other opportunities that have been presented to him, and we have accepted his resignation. Furthermore, as part of the wider restructure, Managing Director Richard Stainer is shortly set to return to the UK where he is in in talks with the London office about a role.

“We are extremely fortunate to have, in our Chairman Emma Cookson, someone who has been at the agency in New York since it opened its doors 14 years ago and who is uniquely equipped to bring continuity and to partner with John and Chief Strategy Officer Sarah Watson in leading the agency forward.

“Obviously you never want to have to announce job losses, and those impacted by this news are not just colleagues but friends and valued members of the BBH family. We will do our best to help them find new positions in New York and throughout the BBH network. But this is advertising and we live in particularly uncertain times. We will dust ourselves down, we believe this move will make us stronger.”

Essentially Jones is saying that BBH in New York is fucked, it hasn’t worked. It doesn’t actually matter that much (apart from the 40 or so people losing their jobs) because earlier this year BBH was bought out by 49 per cent owner Publicis Groupe so financial disaster now doesn’t loom large. But it’s interesting to note that one of the reasons why BBH eventually sold to PG was the inability of the micro-network to meet the financial expectations of its highly successful Brazilian agency Neogama BBH and (part) owner Alexandre Gama.

PG moved in to buy Neogama and that spelt the end of BBH’s independence. The parlous state of New York, which seems to have been triggered by the loss of GM’s Cadillac account, can’t have helped.

BBH made lots of mistakes in New York, most notably appointing appointing Cindy Gallop CEO. Cindy is a show-stopper and still packing them in in her new guise as a sex guru, but that ain’t BBH.

Co-founder and former CEO Nigel Bogle is incredibly serious, he doesn’t do jokes or froth. Neither, really, does creative supremo John Hegarty. Both have proved estimable managers and are many millions richer after the PG deal. They may be feeling a little worse tonight.

It must be a cause of regret, to lots of others as well as them, that BBH couldn’t crack America.

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Alexandre Gama bartle bogle hegarty bbh braxil Cindy Gallop John Hegarty neogama New York Nigel Bogle publicis groupe

About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

2 comments

  1. BBH is a great agency and a great brand. All brands’ fortunes rise and fall, particularly in the extremely harsh economic environment that everyone is facing currently all around the world. I, like many others, believe in BBH and am rooting for them and their people to make it through the dark days.

    Yours, BBH New York’s Most Notable Mistake

  2. That was a bit unfair Cindy. Apologies. Somehow or other BBH in London seemed blue chip from the start, in New York maybe not. Maybe it’s matter of the clients you start with and hold, London had Audi and Levi’s. Latterly BBH New York had Sprite, which went (dunno why) and GM’s Cadillac. But this went too in Joel Ewanick’s scorched earth policy. Maybe Publicis Groupe could have offered a bit more support too.

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