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BMB (UK)

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BMB - or Beattie McGuinness Bungay as it was originally known - is the creative agency founded in 2005 when high profile creative director Trevor Beattie and two other senior executives from TBWA London jumped ship to set up their own shop. Towards the end of 2008, the partners entered negotiations to sell themselves to Omnicom, a deal which would have resulted in their taking back management control of TBWA\London. Talks reached an advanced stage but eventually failed at the last minute, apparently over BMB's price demands. A few weeks later the agency agreed an alternative arrangement with Korean advertising group Cheil Worldwide, selling an initial 49% shareholding for an undisclosed sum. More recently, the founding partners reduced their day-to-day involvement in the business, with outsider Juliet Haygarth joining in 2014 as CEO. Cheil took full control in 2016, but performance has been slightly rocky for a couple of years.

Clients

Click here for a BMB client listing from Adbrands Account Assignments

Competitors

See Leading UK Agencies for other companies

Brand & Activities

The Cheil deal capped a phenomenal year in 2008 in which BMB was the top UK agency by new business wins, causing billings to soar by almost two-thirds to over £80m. Marketing magazine named BMB as its Creative Agency of the Year for 2008, while Campaign placed the shop as runner-up to Mother. BMB spent much of 2009 bedding down its new clients, and budget cuts led to a slight decline in annual billings over the next few years, according to Nielsen/Campaign estimates. In 2010, the agency's new business drive failed to offset a couple of significant losses, not least the high-spending Confused.com insurance comparison website.

There was a return to positive growth in 2011, with a string of small but significant new business victories including positions on the Kraft and Microsoft rosters. Since then, gains have been overshadowed by some significant losses, not least longtime client McCain Foods in 2014. Further blows were the departure of the £20m Paddy Power account after just three months in 2015, followed by long-time client Yorkshire Tea the following year (both to Lucky Generals). The New Balance account won in 2016 may also be in review. Nielsen (in Campaign) estimated billings of £46m in 2015, down more than 20% on the year before.

There have been repeated attempts to broaden BMB's reach, but so far with limited success. In 2008 the agency set up its own experiential unit, BMB Live, which enjoyed a great year in its own right when it tied up a five-year deal for client McCain to sponsor UK Athletics. However, that unit was subsequently absorbed into Cheil's newly launched below-the-line network One Agency in 2010. The following year, BMB acquired branded entertainment developer Neon, now BMB Neon, and also established its own media planning and buying unit in a joint venture with Omnicom-affiliated Goodstuff Communications. New for 2013 was PR unit Seven Dials, run by the former managing director of The Independent newspaper Simon Kelner. However the agency sold out its stake in that business at the end of the year.

There has been talk at several points of developing a small international network for BMB, which might also take over some of the local management duties for Cheil's key account, Samsung. First step was the creation of a New York office in mid 2009, but that unit failed to get very far in the fiercely competitive US market and was shuttered in 2011 following hefty financial losses. An office opened in India in 2010 in a joint venture with local marketing group Madison World, but that too generated significant losses and was shuttered in 2014.

Also in 2014, Cheil increased its shareholding in BMB from the original 49%, paying £9m to raise its stake to 75%. It took full control of the business in May 2016, buying out Beattie, Bungay and Bain's remaining shares for an undisclosed sum.

Financials

In 2013, BMB reported turnover of £23.9m for the year, down almost 2%. After pretax profits of over £5.0m in 2012, that figure plunged to just £1.0m, and the group reported a £469k net loss after tax and its share of losses from Madison World in India. In 2014, the company filed only abbreviated accounts. No turnover figures were declared by Beattie McGuinness Bungay Ltd for 2015, but the company said the sum had declined 24%. It reported a net profit of £20m.

Cheil Europe reported turnover of £15.1m in 2015, down 10% on the year before, on billings down 38% to £41.1m. Net losses doubled to £1.5m. The group said the decline in performance was the result of "lower spend by the company's main client", Samsung.

Management

The most high profile of the agency's three founders is Trevor Beattie, previously TBWA's chairman and executive creative director, and well-known in the industry for his outspoken views and regular appearances in the trade press. Significantly, Beattie himself pursued a much lower personal profile following the launch of BMB, perhaps aware that the controversy he used to enjoy stirring up at TBWA might not play as well with clients once he became part-owner rather than a salaried employee. There was reportedly some disagreement between the three founding partners in 2014 over the future direction of the agency, with the result that Andrew McGuinness resigned, later becoming CEO of PR group Freud. Instead, Juliet Haygarth was appointed as chief executive, joining the agency from Brothers and Sisters. She resigned at the end of 2017 on grounds of ill-health.

Background

The trio's defection from TBWA followed a series of account losses at that agency, and Beattie took with him the equally high-profile (but low-billing) FCUK retail account. The start-up performed very respectably after its launch, picking up another former TBWA account in McCain Foods, as well as Carling lager. However other accounts tended to come and go for a while: FCUK moved on in 2006 in search of more traditional marketing after Beattie's original shock-tactics advertising failed to arrest declining sales; Heinz also came and went during 2006.

The following year was much stronger, with a string of small and medium-sized wins and no losses. That turned out to be a prelude to an extraordinarily successful year in 2008, marred only by controversy over the iPint widget it launched on behalf of Carling to be played on Apple's iPhone. The agency was sued by an American company, which claimed that it was a direct copy of its own application.

Last full revision 7th October 2016

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