Bartle Bogle Hegarty (UK)

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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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Recent stories from Adbrands Weekly Update:

Adbrands Weekly Update 16th Nov 2017: Ads Of The Week: "Rivalry". A break from Christmas ads, even if this one does still contain more than its fair share of seasonal snow. BBH New York has come up with a brilliantly entertaining spot to promote Playstation's new Star Wars Battlefront II game. In most ads, when a pretty teenage girl moves into the house across the road, it usually signifies the beginning of a soppy adolescent love story. Not this time, because this kid is clearly far too in touch with her dark side. BBH has its tongue lodged firmly in its cheek throughout, which makes the mounting absurdity of the situation even more entertaining. Somewhere down the line, good and bad are clearly going to have to hook up together, but for now, let battle commence! 

Adbrands Weekly Update 5th Oct 2017: Ads Of The Week: "Clowns". Here's more evidence of an upsurge in creative quality at BBH London, which now seems finally to be getting to grips with the series of management departures that had tarnished some of the agency's lustre. This campaign for Audi displays all the wit and imagination that we always used to associate with the agency. We love that the entire ad seems to spin off from the simple observation that "the roads are full of clowns these days". BBH takes that observation at face value to show how Audi can protect you from them. Don't worry if you find clowns sinister rather than funny; that viewpoint will only add to the film's impact!

Adbrands Weekly Update 15th Sep 2017: Ads of the Week "One Night". We were a bit underwhelmed by BBH London's "circle of kisses" debut for Absolut vodka, but this follow-up, very different in style, is a doozy. Also a worthy and much-needed return to form for an agency that's experienced a few challenges recently. How about this for a brief? "A history of the world from creation to now in 60 seconds". The results show how hours of painstaking research in the archive footage library can truly be time well spent. 

Adbrands Weekly Update 13th Jul 2017: There were creative changes at BBH London. Executive creative director Nick Gill is to give up executive responsibilities but will remain at the agency as creative director on its two biggest accounts, Tesco and Barclays. His former deputies Ian Heartfield and Anthony Austin move up to become joint ECDs. All three will continue to report to worldwide CCO Pelle Sjoenell.

Adbrands Weekly Update 15th Jun 2017: Ads of the Week: "Effortless Night". The seamless tracking shot is a Holy Grail for every filmmaker aiming to make his or her mark. For the first UK TV ad from BBH London for ride-hailing service Uber, director Kim Gehrig tries for just such a feat, but we're pretty certain that there are at least two cuts lurking in there. Still, a very nice try even if it all feels oddly old-fashioned and stagey for such a disruptive marketer.


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Background

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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