Bartle Bogle Hegarty (or BBH) has long ranked as one of the world's most admired creative agencies, with a reputation for stylish, elegant and original advertising. In the 1990s, determined to maintain its independence, the company sold a large minority stake to global network Leo Burnett (later inherited by Publicis Groupe), and used those funds to establish its own international presence in other key markets including New York, Singapore and Shanghai. However none of these other outposts has come close to matching the prominence of the main London office, which continues to be one of the country's most admired, despite a couple of tough years in 2009 and 2010. Making up for lost time, the new business team delivered a string of account wins in 2011, earning the accolade as Campaign's Agency of the Year for two consecutive years. In 2012, Publicis acquired the outstanding 51% stake in the agency from founders John Hegarty and Nigel Bogle to take full control.
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Adbrands Daily Update 14th Mar 2019: BBH retained Barclays Bank following a review in which it defended the account against stiff competition from AMV BBDO, Mother and Publicis. The agency has held the business since 2001, but Barclays called a review at the beginning of the year. The hold is a resounding endorsement of BBH's work. "We're incredibly proud of the work we've produced with Barclays over the past 17 years," said BBH London MD Karen Martin, "but we never rest on our laurels. We pitched against some of the best agencies in town and our deep expertise and future-facing skills proved that we continue to be the best creative partner for Barclays as it enters its next chapter."
Adbrands Social Media 11th Mar 2019: "A Pleasure To Follow". BBH London's latest for Audi is cute but it feels - to this pair of eyes anyway - forced. The agency's best work for this long-time client has often been based on an unlikely conceit, but has had sufficient humour or style to encourage the necessary suspension of belief. Here though it just seems silly. The new Audi Sport R8 is so gorgeous that all the other vehicles in town - even a bridal wedding party - are fighting with one another just to drive behind it. Really? Was that the pitch? Nah, I don't buy it.
Adbrands Social Media 7th Nov 2018: "However You Do Christmas". We're back to Christmas again with BBH London's seasonal campaign for top-selling supermarket Tesco. It's very much in the traditional Christmas spirit, with no surprises, but a nice little film nonetheless. If we had to carp we'd say that while the vignettes are generally well drawn, there might perhaps have been more families featured. Those three students definitely make too many appearances, as does the posh country gentleman. We don't generally approve of box-ticking for racial and religious types but it's inevitable in a spot like this. The black/white balance is excellent, but on first viewing we spotted no Muslim representation. Then we spotted a headscarved grandmother in the Scrabble vignette. Quite whose grandmother that is, though, is a bit of mystery. And while we're on the topic, definitely no Jewish families present, even the very many who celebrate a secular Christmas. Oh well, we suppose no ad can be perfect when it comes to cross-sectioning society.
Adbrands Social Media 3rd Sep 2018: "Big Entrance". The new Audi Q8 gets a suitably epic introduction in this new spot from BBH London. We remarked last week on the fact that BBH continues to deliver its most imaginative work for longtime client Audi, even as some of its other output falls a little short. Here the agency takes the simplest of ideas - launching a new car with a dramatic musical soundtrack - but adds the delicious little comic twist of showing us the orchestra as well in the incongruous setting of a container dock, tuning up in eager anticipation for the car's arrival and then cooling down again as the car moves off into the night. Nicely done.
Adbrands Weekly Update 30th Aug 2018: Ads of the Week: "Escape". BBH's creative output has been a little mixed over the past couple of years, but the London agency can still be relied upon to dig deep and pull out a plum for long-time client Audi. This new spot is no exception, a worthy follow-up, though completely different in tone, to last year's 'Clowns'. It grabs you from the very beginning with a cinematic cliffhanger which gradually segues into one of the best uses of comedic bathos we've seen for several months in an ad. A thoroughly entertaining piece of work. But one thing truly beggars belief. Can it really be true that new Audis offer a backseat foot-massager?!?
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Free to all users | see full profile for current activities: The agency was founded in 1982 by John Bartle, Nigel Bogle and John Hegarty, formerly the three senior managers of TBWA's London office. Levi's was a key early account, and Hegarty's highly influential creative approach to the jeans brand turned him into the advertising industry's youth marketing guru during the decade. Levi's ads reached iconic status by the end of the 1980s, creating stars of the models featured in them and hit singles out of the tracks chosen as backing music. Perhaps the most admired was the celebrated Launderette ad in which model Nick Kamen stripped down to his boxer shorts in order to wash his 501s. The ad managed three feats: not only did it cause sales of Levi's to sky-rocket, but it also propelled its backing track (Marvin Gaye's I Heard It Through The Grapevine) back to the top of the music charts and even established boxer shorts as a definitive fashion item. Numerous other style-oriented accounts followed in Levi's wake and the agency expanded rapidly, while still remaining true to its determined independent stance. Other early clients were Audi and Whitbread (now Interbrew), still clients more than 20 years later.
In 1995, BBH spun off its media services department as Motive Communications. Although a Singapore office was established at around the same time, the rapid globalisation of the advertising industry had increasingly threatened BBH's profile with clients. About half of the agency's business was already international, despite the lack of a global network. In fact, in 1996 BBH was the first agency ever to win the Queen's Award for Export. But the company finally succumbed to temptation in 1997 by selling just under half its equity to the equally independent-minded (but very much bigger) Leo Burnett, for a price rumoured to be somewhere in the region of $50m. BBH kept its independence but gained access to the US agency's global network.
The agency opened a New York office during 1998, and won its first piece of business there with the global Reebok Classic account, worth around $25m. This was followed by Cointreau. Back in the UK, direct marketing division Limbo, set up a year earlier, was folded back into the main agency to form total communications arm BBH Unlimited. In 1999, responding to the transfer of Levi's marketing department from Singapore to Japan, the agency opened a Tokyo office as well.
However BBH suffered some turbulence following the retirement at the end of 1999 of figurehead John Bartle. With creative supremo John Hegarty away supervising the New York office, the agency was dogged by a series of management upsets. Of these, the most dramatic was the group resignation in 2000 of five senior executives, including executive creative director Bruce Crouch, to launch their own agency under the name Soul (later absorbed by Nitro). And although BBH continued to win a series of important accounts, creative work became patchy. Steps were taken to strengthen the London office in 2001, not least with John Hegarty's return to the UK.
BBH took its first steps into Brazil in 2002, acquiring a significant minority stake in local shop Neogama from Leo Burnett, which had backed its start-up in 1999. The move was reported to be encouraged by Unilever, now a major BBH client, and a major advertiser in Brazil. The agency has continued to collect an ever-larger collection of Unilever business since then, as well as several other blue-chip accounts. In 2006, however, it resigned the Sony Ericsson account after it discovered that the handset manufacturer had been working secretly with Omnicom-owned design agency Wolff Olins. See full profile for current activities
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