New book should remind us that John Webster’s BMP was the best agency of them all

Sarah Carter, who I don’t know, has written a book about John Webster, the famed creative director of Boase Massimi Pollitt. Webster took over from founder creative director Gabe Massimi following his fall-out with co-founder Martin Boase. Boase won.

And Webster was indeed a brilliant creative director, as this piece on his triumphs shows (you may get stuck behind Campaign’s paywall). The book is called ‘The Earth People’s Adman’ for some bizarre reason, but there you go.

And we can all remember the ads, some of them anyway: Cadbury’s Smash, Unigate’s milkmen, the Guardian’s ‘Points of view.’ Not many of them, actually, for brands which have survived and prospered but BMP, for about ten years in the 1980s, was the best agency in the world.

You had to be there.

But BMP wasn’t all about Webster; the heart and soul of the place was Stanley Pollitt, one of the founders of ‘account planning’ along with Stephen King at JWT. Pollitt, a keen racing man, took research and, instead of making it an impediment to ads, made it work for them. Essentially he asked the questions which would produce the right answers as far as BMP (chiefly Webster and his creative cohorts) was concerned. The upshot was lots of surprisingly brave clients and some brilliant campaigns.

BMP, after an attempt to fly on the stock market, eventually succumbed to DDB which then became part of Omnicom (or maybe Omnicom came first). Anyway it disappeared.

But it wasn’t just about Webster and his creatives or Pollitt and his planners. It was just as much, if not more so, about BMP’s adroit account handlers who, armed with the ammunition from Pollitt and co, could persuade advertisers to do something brave and brilliant.

Martin Boase was the acknowledged master of this (if anyone in ads deserves a knighthood it’s Martin) and his successor Chris Powell (who’s got one) was every bit as good.

Anyway this new book is an opportunity to remember a class act (hopefully, I haven’t read it – launching it in Campaign this way probably means not many other people will either). I’d say it’s the best ad agency there ever was.

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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.