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TBWA\London has earned a reputation as one of the more fragile outposts of TBWA Worldwide's global network following several management upheavals since 2005. The agency was originally welded together from several high profile mergers and takeovers in the closing years of the 1990s, including admired independent GGT. The enlarged agency established a reputation as a creative hothouse in the late 1990s and early 2000s, largely as a result of high-profile creative director Trevor Beattie. His resignation in 2005 along with two senior colleagues (to form Beattie McGuinness Bungay) followed a string of serious account losses, and several others resulted from their departure. TBWA's position appeared to stabilise for a few years but it failed to recapture its former glory. Indeed, the lack of substantial improvement resulted in an abrupt new purge of senior management at the end of 2009, and several further account reviews. Another management overhaul in 2012 was more successful, leading to a modest improvement in performance. More promising still could be TBWA's purchase of a controlling stake in fast-growing Lucky Generals, whose co-founder Helen Calcraft was named as group chief executive in 2017.
Click here for a TBWA\London client listing from Adbrands Account Assignments
See ranking of Leading UK Agencies
After several years as one of London's most highly regarded creative agencies, TBWA London appeared to lose its way in 2004, shedding several major accounts. The process started with the loss of the substantial launch account for mobile phone service 3. That alone caused the agency to slip eight places in the Campaign/Nielsen annual agency rankings, down to #15. The account was followed out the door by News International and Abbey in 2005. Then in May 2005, creative director Trevor Beattie and chief executive Andrew McGuinness announced their resignation to launch start-up shop, Beattie McGuinness Bungay, which successfully tempted away several other remaining clients. Neil Dawson, named as chairman to replace Beattie, jumped ship soon afterwards to launch his own start-up, HMDG, and a series of other senior execs followed suit. Estimated billings of £131m in 2006 were the agency's poorest showing since its merger with GGT and Simons Palmer in the late 1990s.
TBWA finally appeared to regain stability in 2007. That year billings rose to £168m, allowing the agency to climb back to #15 in the rankings, but there was another slump in 2008, with a mixed bag of account wins and losses. In September 2008, parent group Omnicom entered negotiations to buy Beattie McGuinness Bungay and reinstall its partners as TBWA\London's senior management team. Talks reached an advanced stage but eventually failed, apparently over BMB's proposed price tag. TBWA ended the year in the #19 position, its lowest ever ranking.
If anything, 2009 was even worse. Part of the Muller account was shifted away at the beginning of the year. In July, the UK group adopted a new name of TBWA\Media Arts, only to have that decision reversed four months later. The lack of major account wins, combined with behind-the-scenes rows between local group president Tim Lindsay and network management resulted in Lindsay's abrupt dismissal in November. According to press reports, Lindsay was whisked out of a planning meeting to be fired and given just 30 minutes to leave the building. By the end of the year, billings had continued to slide, falling to £117m, down a high of £240m in 2003.
It could hardly get worse, and there was a modest improvement during 2010 as new president Robert Harwood-Matthews set about rebuilding morale and a new management team. The recapture of the consolidated Muller account, against expectations, helped, but not for long. The account was resigned again in 2011 after less than a year, and the agency also lost its share of the Mars and Nivea accounts in global realignments. SCA Hygiene's global Tena sanpro account and GSK's Aquafresh were important and morale-boosting wins in 2012, but there wasn't much else to report. Tena left the following year, but discount supermarket Lidl was an important morale-boosting win, and has been something of a creative flagbearer ever since, as well as the agency's most valuable client. For 2014, Nielsen (in Campaign) estimated billings of £147m, TBWA's best performance for years, and enough to push it back into the Top 15 agencies. Another strong year in 2015 lifted the agency back into the Top Ten for the first time in 12 years, with billings of £178m.
However, 2016 was another disappointment, with another dismal new business record. Nevertheless, increased spend from key local client Lidl, and network cornerstones Apple and Nissan, lifted billings to £194m, enough to keep the agency within the Top 12 agencies.
In early 2017, TBWA acquired all the equity in London creative agency Lucky Generals for a lavish upfront payment of £15m, plus an undisclosed future earnout. Initial speculation that the two agencies would be merged was quoshed by the Generals partners, who opted to demand their own separate identity and branding. Gradually, though senior managers from LG have gradually made their presence felt, not least Helen Calcraft, eventually appointed as group chief executive.
In addition to the main London agency, the TBWA UK group comprises a small collection of other marketing services companies. Manchester-based BDH\TBWA reigned for many years as one of the UK's leading regional agencies. It compensated in part for the London office's loss of the 3 account in 2004, with a powerful jump in billings to £54m, only marginally behind regional rival Cheethambell JWT. However it too suffered a significant downturn during 2006, with billings almost halving to £36m as a result of the loss of its flagship account for supermarket group Morrisons, before plunging further in 2007. That year, BDH\TBWA was merged with its below-the-line subsidiaries Tequila and Digerati to form a single integrated offering under the new name TBWA\Manchester. Billings surged in 2010 following the capture of another UK supermarket, The Co-operative Group, but that account too moved on in 2012. Nielsen estimated billings for 2012 of £24m, placing it as the UK's #3 regional agency. The TBWA network established its first presence in Ireland in 2002 with the acquisition of local shop Cawley Nea, which also now reports as part of the UK group.
Direct marketing agency GGT Direct, the last part of the old GGT group to retain that name, was rebranded TBWA\GGT in 2000, but the GGT brand was finally consigned to history in 2004, when TBWA\GGT was merged into the London outpost of TBWA's Tequila integrated network. In 2005, the local office of interactive specialist Agency.com was also aligned formally with TBWA in the UK, and was effectively absorbed completely into the agency in 2010. At the beginning of 2011, Tequila and Agency.com were merged as a single business and rebranded as the local arm of another TBWA satellite, Being.
Other satellites include a UK office of production network EG+. The group acquired translation agency Mother Tongue in 2012. A new division, TBWA\Upstart was launched in 2004 to handle clients with smaller advertising budgets, but it failed to take off and was later shuttered. In 2007, a new unit, TBWA Media Arts Lab, was established in London to handle more specialised marketing and media services exclusively for client Apple. A local arm of TBWA\WorldHealth was established in 2009 by the absorption into the group and rebranding of healthcare agency Paling Waters, now TBWA Paling Walters. It was transferred out of the local TBWA group during 2016 and now sits within Omnicom's DAS division.
TBWA UK Group reported gross billings of £358m for 2016, up 2.5%. Turnover declined by 3% to £71.3m, reflecting the transfer of TBWA Worldhealth UK to Omnicom's DAS marketing services division. A gain of £11.8m on that transaction caused pretax profits to more than double to £25.9m. Net profit was £22.6m. Just over half of turnover was generated in the UK, and another third from Europe. There were 588 staff.
The group's various subsidiary companies no longer file separate accounts. The last statutory accounts for TBWA London Ltd in 2014 reported gross billings of £293m, up 13%. Revenues slipped 5% to £33.1m, but net profit rebounded to £4.4m after a £0.8m loss the year before. A total of 46% of revenue was generated in the UK, and 42% in the rest of Europe. There were 236 staff. The next biggest business within the group that year after TBWA London was production arm EG+, with revenues of £10.1m and pretax profit of £3.9m. TBWA Manchester had revenues of £5.7m and pretax profits of £0.9m. TBWA Paling Walters had revenues of £5.2m and pretax profits of £0.5m.
TBWA has suffered years of management turmoil since the departure of Beattie, McGuinness and Bungay. Initially Matt Shepherd-Smith was promoted to CEO of TBWA\London, and Tim Lindsay was recruited from Publicis London to be president of the combined TBWA UK & Ireland group. In November 2009, Lindsay was dismissed and replaced by Robert Harwood-Matthews; Shepherd-Smith quit soon afterwards. Andy De Groose was appointed as managing director in 2010, but left in 2012. Group president Robert Harwood-Matthews also moved on in 2012, transferring to the US as president of TBWA New York.
Harwood-Matthews was succeeded by Peter Souter, a former creative chief of AMV BBDO, who had spent the previous four years outside the industry as a scriptwriter. He became executive chairman & chief creative officer until 2017, when he relinquished those roles, but continues to serve as a senior creative director. Lindsey Evans, formerly MD of the now-shuttered Campaign Palace in Sydney, joined as president in 2012 but resigned the following summer after less than a year in the role in order to return to Australia. Her role was eventually filled by Richard Stainer, who was named as chief executive in Feb 2014. Amelia Torode joined the agency in 2014 as chief strategy officer. However, following the purchase by TBWA of a majority shareholding in London independent Lucky Generals, Stainer and Torode left the company in early 2017. Anna Vogt was eventually appointed as chief strategy officer. However Lucky Generals' Sara Tate was named as chief executive of TBWA London.
There have also been several changes within the creative department. Following Beattie's resignation, Steve Henry, one of the original founders of HHCL, was appointed as executive creative director, but announced his departure in summer 2008. Mark Hunter joined the agency as executive creative director towards the end of 2009, but he too quit a year later to move to Deutsch in Los Angeles. He was replaced by André "Dedé" Laurentino, previously from LewLara'TBWA of Brazil. Towards the end of 2012, new chairman Souter hired former AMV BBDO colleagues Walter Campbell and Sean Doyle to become creative directors; Laurentino moved to a global creative role before leaving the agency the following year. Another industry veteran, Paul Weinberger - the creative head who managed the Tesco account for many years at Lowe and later Red Brick Road - joined in 2013 to work on the account of newly won Lidl. Graeme Douglas was recruited from Wieden & Kennedy London to become executive creative director in 2015, overseeing the department. Campbell and Doyle departed the agency the following month. Douglas, too, left in 2017 and Andy Jex was appointed as chief creative officer in summer 2017.
Fergus McCallum is chief executive of TBWA\Manchester, with Lisa Nichols and Gary Fawcett as joint creative directors.
Until its recent troubles, TBWA London held a long-established reputation as a creative hothouse. However, that atmosphere also made it one of the city's more turbulent shops even in its early days, home to a long string of mergers and breakaways as different creative personalities joined forces and then fell out with one another. TBWA was the first continental European agency to establish a London office in 1973, based around founder members John Bartle, Nigel Bogle and John Hegarty. After a series of award-winning campaigns for the likes of Johnnie Walker, Ovaltine and LandRover during the 1970s, which earned TBWA a reputation as the country's hottest agency, Bartle, Bogle and Hegarty left in 1982 to establish their own agency, BBH. Another group of directors jumped ship in 1984 to establish a second (and somewhat less successful) breakaway, Edwards Martin Thornton, but for a while TBWA continued to do well in the UK, picking up several major accounts, including the government's first anti-AIDS campaign in 1987. Gradually, though, the momentum began to falter, exacerbated by continuing turbulence at management level, as a number of leaders came and went. As a result, the London office remained one of the more troubled outposts in TBWA's otherwise successful network, languishing outside the Top 40 by the close of the decade.
In 1989, parent TBWA International attempted to secure a more stable leadership team for London by launching a half-hearted bid to protect British agency BMP from a hostile takeover by rival Paris-based agency BDDP. (Ironically, BMP was in fact rescued by Omnicom, later to become parent of both TBWA and BDDP). When that failed, TBWA plugged the gap in both management and its client portfolio by absorbing or merging with other small agencies. It acquired Robert Jenkins in 1989, then folded the resulting business a year later into the much stronger Holmes Knight Ritchie to form TBWA Holmes Knight Ritchie. (In a further ironic twist, HKR had itself previously been part-owned by US shop Wells Rich Greene, which sold those shares when it was itself acquired by BDDP). HKR's Alasdair Ritchie was given the task of rebuilding the TBWA brand in the UK. This he did with some success, assisted by new creative director Trevor Beattie, whose "Hello Boys" campaign for Wonderbra featuring supermodel Eva Herzigova garnered national acclaim.
The subsequent purchase of TBWA by Omnicom gave Ritchie considerable additional funding to add to TBWA's resources in Europe through acquisition. In 1994, the UK agency merged with another Omnicom subsidiary, Hoare Wilkins, entering the Top 20 under a simplified new name of TBWA London. Ritchie was given additional responsibility for expanding TBWA Europe, leaving the UK office in the hands of Jonathan Hoare. However much of 1995 was consumed by negotiations with the London office of Chiat/Day, the US agency with which TBWA had just merged. This unit refused to become part of an enlarged TBWA London and eventually established independence under new name St Luke's. Instead, two years later, TBWA added bulk through the acquisition of another highly regarded creative shop, Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow Johnson, which brought with it media arm Manning Gottlieb Media and integrated agency Maher Bird. The two main creative agencies merged as TBWA Simons Palmer.
The subsequent takeover of UK agency network GGT by TBWA's parent Omnicom in early 1998, was followed by a further amalgamation when TBWA Simons Palmer merged with GGT London in to form the ungainly TBWA GGT Simons Palmer, becoming one of the UK's top 10 agencies. (Ironically Simons Palmer was itself a former breakaway from GGT). The mouthful was replaced in late 2000 by the more elegant TBWA\London. Also in 1998, the group acquired BDH, one of the biggest agencies in Manchester, to form BDH TBWA.
Meanwhile creative director Trevor Beattie consolidated his status as one of the country's most high-profile advertising executives, even hiring his own personal PR at one stage to generate more press cuttings. Eyecatching campaigns for the likes of Sony Playstation, French Connection and the government added to the shop's creative reputation.
In 2001, however, the agency was rocked by management upheaval when chief executive Simon Clemmow and joint MD Johnny Hornby announced their resignation to set up their own company, Clemmow Hornby Inge, taking the £10m Carphone Warehouse account with them. As a result 2002 proved a less creatively satisfying year than the golden age of the late 1990s, while the pick of new business (not least Adidas) was generated from the international network. The agency was also persuaded to resign its Cadbury's confectionery account in a bid to win more work from Mars, another international win. Gradually performance began to stall during 2004. The TBWA management team was shaken up dramatically once again by the resignation in May 2005 of Trevor Beattie and Andrew McGuinness, respectively chairman and chief executive, and creative director Bil Bungay, to form Beattie McGuinness Bungay. The trio tempted away several significant TBWA accounts.
Formerly the de facto European HQ of the TBWA network, London effectively lost that position to TBWA Germany in 2007 following the semi-retirement of Paul Bainsfair.
Last full revision 11th January 2018
* Archive page for historical reference only. This profile is no longer being actively updated. See active page here *
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