Batey was one of the stars of the Singapore and Malaysian ad industry from the 1970s to 1990s. Controlled by WPP from 2001, Batey struggled to recover from the loss of cornerstone client Singapore Airlines in 2007 and it was eventually absorbed into the Grey worldwide network in 2013. It no longer operates as a separate brand.
London-born Ian Batey emigrated with his family to Australia in the late 1940s, and ended up working at Sydney's Jackson Wain agency, first on the Qantas airlines account and subsequently on Malaysia-Singapore Airlines, a joint venture between the governments of those two countries. When that partnership was terminated, Batey jumped ship to launch his own shop with Singapore Airlines as his founding client. The Singapore Girl campaign ("A Great Way To Fly") proved a huge worldwide success, establishing the airline as one of the world's finest, and cementing the start-up agency's reputation.
During the early 1990s, French agency BDDP took a 20% stake in the business as part of its international expansion. That stake was eventually inherited by Omnicom, following the US group's takeover of BDDP. In 1997, WPP acquired its own minority holding in Batey, and subsequently bought out Omnicom's shares as well, accumulating a majority interest by mid-2001. At that point Batey was established as the Asia-Pacific arm of WPP's "challenger" advertising network Red Cell, and a decision was made to surrender several of its less creative accounts.
Ian Batey sold his remaining stake to WPP in 2005 and left the business. At the same time, what was then the agency's Australian outpost Batey Kazoo was merged into local creative agency The Campaign Palace. Alan Fairnington was appointed as CEO in 2006 and Batey was realigned as an independent agency within JWT's worldwide portfolio. However, the departure of Ian Batey and his wide circle of contacts was to prove a serious obstacle to further growth, and also weakened the agency's relationship with existing clients. Singapore Airlines finally transferred its account in 2007 after 34 years with the agency; another key client, Audi, left Batey in 2008. The agency was transferred from JWT to Grey in 2009, and is now effectively merged into Grey's local office in that city.
Ian Batey now lives mostly in the US. In 2013, he established the Batey Scholar Award to support marketing communications students at Singapore Polytechnic.
Last full revision 28th September 2016
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