Media pioneer John Ayling Associates celebrates 40 years on

To One Marylebone, a London landmark stemming from 1826. Not quite as venerable is John Ayling Associates, there yesterday to celebrate 40 years as a London media independent.

Back in the 1970s a wave of media independents shook up the UK advertising scene and then the global ad world as media was detached from creative agencies by a number of entrepreneurial individuals from such agencies, fed up with media being relegated below stairs.

Most were eventually absorbed by their former agency brethren to become the behemoths of global media. The Media Department (TMD) was bought by Carat and then Carat by Dentsu. Chris Ingram Associates became quoted Tempus and was then bought by Sir Martin Sorrell’s WPP in a hotly contested takeover. Tempus became MEC, now part of WPP’s Wavemaker. Ingram said he’d sooner lick the floor than work for Sorrell and left. Alan Rich’s The Media Business became WPP’s giant MediaCom. Rich was more phlegmatic and has a bar named after him at MediaCom HQ.

Ayling, who left the Kirkwood Company with a number of key staff, has remained independent all these years despite numerous offers. Back in the day he backed David Pattison, Nick Horswill and Jonathan Durden who, handily, were able to become the intellectual-sounding PHD. PHD was sold to quoted Abbott Mead Vickers for £20m which allowed Ayling to cash in while staying out of the clutches of the holding companies. PHD subsequently became part of Omnicom along with AMV and is the global media agency of the moment, hoovering up a number of big accounts recently including HSBC.

Back in the day JAA’s forte was acting as the media department for a number of the new creative agencies that transformed the London ad scene, most notably Bartle Bogle Hegarty, which eventually went its own media way with what became Starcom. Bartle, who retired a number of years ago to be a consultant and watch cricket, and Bogle, still at BBH, were there last night to sing the praises of JAA, in their trademark understated way (Hegarty was in Cannes).

BBH, now enjoying a revival, was the class act among London agencies for decades. You can tell a lot about an agency of any ilk by the company they keep. JAA was in pretty good company last night.


  1. I liked the way Nick Horswell got mentioned here as his old nickname Horswill!

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