1/Bartle Bogle Hegarty was founded in 1982 and for most of the intervening period has been rightly viewed as one of the world’s few great creative agencies. What made the agency special and what provided its longevity?
The three of us were very fortunate in co-founding and running TBWA London for eight years before starting BBH. It gave us great experience and allowed us to bind the three core disciplines of our company together, Creative, Account Management and Account Planning. If BBH is special in any way it is to do with the quality of our people, having a relentless focus on the quality of the work and believing in the power of difference to make a difference to our clients’s business. The three of us knew that we wanted to build something in the long-term. We were just not interested in an overnight short term play.
2/Since Publicis Groupe bought all the shares and some consequent senior departures there’s been a feeling that BBH slipped – a bit. Is this fair and has the agency recovered its mojo? Is life harder under a holding company?
We definitely got distracted during the elongated discussions with Publicis Groupe and a lot of time was spent on bringing new skills into the company. So we went through a phase where our mantra, “it’s all about the work” was not being adhered to. The departure of some senior people was almost inevitable and in some cases was desirable. But we are back, the work is looking good, we are more focused than ever and our mojo is working fine.
3/Which client relationships do you think best illustrate the contribution an agency can make to a client’s business?
I think long term relationships best illustrate the contribution an agency can make. Our relationship with Audi is 36 years new. This long-term partnership has played a significant part in the growth of the brand in sales and in prestige. Audi has gone from being a quirky idiosyncratic brand in the early 80’s, to being as desirable, if not more so, than Mercedes and BMW. Vorsprung Durch Technik has become an invisible component in every Audi.
4/What’s been your best moment in advertising and your biggest disappointment?
My biggest disappointment in advertising was having to resign the Levi’s account because the relationship had broken down. I hate resigning business. We had a wonderful partnership for many years, and the 501 campaign is one of the all time greats and is another example of a contribution being made over time. I’m going to cheat in answering what is my best moment in advertising because it is the ongoing stream of great people who come to BBH and in many cases build their careers at BBH. When our offices around the world are empty there is no Bartle Bogle Hegarty and it is a wonderful privilege as a founder to be surrounded by so much talent.
5/What are the biggest challenges the new generation of management at BBH – indeed at any creative agency – face?
The biggest challenge facing the industry and the next generation of management at BBH is to be absolutely clear about what you are and what makes you different to others in this rapidly changing world. What is the added value that we can provide better than others and better than machines.