Campaign has just produced its list of the best 20 British agencies (to mark the mag’s 50th birthday) and it’s hard to argue with its choices although one might question to decision to include media agencies. Not that they haven’t transformed the business but it is like comparing apples with pears.
Anyway top of the pops is Boase Massimi Pollitt, incorporating its later incarnations as BMP DDB (when it definitely wasn’t top dog although some fine work for the likes of VW still emerged) and then adam&eveDDB which has ruled the roost for the past few years – although 2018 has been uncharacteristically turbulent. A&E still resides in BMP’s old Paddington HQ, which should probably have a preservation order on it as it was there that BMP creative director John Webster, arguably the only adland creative who deserves the soubriquet ‘genius,’ fathered astonishing ads for Cadbury, the Milk Marketing Board, Hofmeister, Courage, Sugar Puffs and John Smith’s among many others.
Elsewhere we’ve Collett Dickenson Pearce in second place (behind BMP chiefly because of its rapid demise when Frank Lowe left to form Lowe Howard-Spink – in ninth place here – and it was bought by Dentsu); Bartle Bogle Hegarty (below) in third, Mother in fourth (a bit generous this although Mother should be preserved) and Abbott Mead Vickers (now AMV/BBDO) in fifth. Low possibly, it’s still the biggest UK agency and capable of very good things even though founding creative inspiration David Abbott has long gone.
Saatchi & Saatchi, which always divided opinion in its brothers-run heyday, is sixth and Howell Henry Chaldecott Lury, always a Campaign darling, is seventh. But can anyone remember anything from HHCL apart from Tango?
CDP in its relatively brief heyday was probably just about as good an agency as it’s possible to be, hosting a formidable array of talent (Charles Saatchi, David Puttnam, Paul Weiland, Alan Parker to name just four of the best known) under creative directors Colin Millward and John Salmon and the imperial rule of MD Frank Lowe. Best known for TV including Hamlet and Heineken it also revolutionised UK print advertising (initially in the new Sunday Times colour supplement) courtesy of creative team Neil Godfrey and Tony Brignull. It could turn out a mean poster too.
Surprisingly perhaps some of these famous agency brands are still with us: BMP (at a pinch) somewhere in the DNA of adam&eveDDB, AMV under Omnicom’s BBDO, BBH, Saatchi and Fallon (11th) at Publicis (although reduced to varying degrees) and WCRS in 13th place, now part of Engine. Lowe is still around too, now part of Interpublic’s MullenLowe although Sir Frank wouldn’t recognise it. Gold Greenlees Trott (in 17th) disappeared into the maw of Omnicom’s TBWA (as did another fine agency Simons Palmer). HHCL became part of Chime and then part of WPP’s Red Cell and United, all disasters.
Money, as usual, was at the bottom of it. But that’s showbiz.
Tiny nitpick: John Webster’s ‘Humphreys’ campaign was for United Dairies, not the MMB.