Mother (UK)

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With a long-standing reputation as London's coolest agency, privately owned Mother continues to make waves and win plaudits for its creative work, although it has largely abandoned the quirkiness for which it was once known, at least as far as its ads are concerned. In fact, since 2000 the agency has moved firmly into the mainstream, although what was once a much-envied roster of blue-chip clients (including Coca-Cola, Boots and Unilever) has suffered some significant losses. That success also encouraged the agency to open an office in New York as well as an affiliate in Buenos Aires. In all other respects, this resolutely independent company is just as determined to do things differently, as it was when it launched over 20 years ago, not least with the founding partners' strict policy of never being photographed together unless in disguise.

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Recent stories from Adbrands Weekly Update:

Adbrands Weekly Update 20th Sep 2018: Ads of the Week: "Epic Sindy". The soundtrack for the latest MoneySupermarket spot should really be 'Hotel California' not 'Go Your Own Way'. "You can check out any time you like but you can never leave," said the Eagles in that song and they could have been talking about agency Mother, which has a habit of retaining the creative duties for departing clients long after they have officially appointed another agency. That was the case earlier this year with Boots, and so it is again with MoneySupermarket, who appointed WCRS as their new agency months ago. Yet here comes Mother with another new campaign. Mother delves deeper into the toybox to resurrect Barbie's British-made rival Sindy for a 'Thelma & Louise' parody. In truth, it's not quite up to the standards of that last splendid Action Man spot, but still very entertaining. Come on, WCRS, now show us what *you've* got!

Adbrands Social Media 28th May 2018: KFC is aiming to rehabilitate itself with UK customers after its disastrous meltdown earlier this year when almost two-thirds of all stores had to close for days on end when they ran out of chicken. The best way to win back fans in situations like this is to fall back on those traditional brand values. So no strutting chickens or clever jokes this time. Mother has resurrected Colonel Sanders in KFC's UK advertising for the first time in more than 40 years to remind us of everything the brand historically stands for. 

Adbrands Weekly Update 26th Apr 2018: Ads of the Week "Repeater". Mother keeps them coming for Ikea. Only a week after the excellent 'Ghosts' (an Ad of the Week last week), here comes another great spot - half-ad half-music video - featuring indie popsters Teleman. There's no great concept, but the whole thing works brilliantly, and is a splendid showcase for everything Ikea has to offer in the way of furnishings and household items. It's not perhaps as technically adventurous as OK Go's extraordinary videos, but still immensely entertaining. Stick with it for the final minute or so as the jump-cut trickery goes into full hilarious overdrive.  

Adbrands Weekly Update 18th Apr 2018: Ads of the Week: "Ghosts". Mother regains all its creative energy for this superb new spot for Ikea, which follows a couple of slight misfires over the past few years. In our opinion, Mother's best work for Ikea has always been those ads that highlight the imagination and innovation of the products themselves, rather than focus on their human owners. The last such spot to bring Ikea's products to life, as it were, at least here in the UK, was the "T-Shirts" spot of a three years ago, which showed garments returning bird-like to roost in an Ikea cupboard. That ad's director Dougal Wilson is back in charge of this spot, overseeing some wonderfully anthropomorphic character puppetry. Fine work. 

Adbrands Weekly Update 12th Apr 2018: Ads of the Week: "The Wave". We had the strangest dream: it was February 2017 and London agency Mother lost the whole Boots account to a dedicated WPP team led by Ogilvy... Clearly it can't have been true because more than a year later here's a brand new ad for Boots No 7 and it's still from Mother not Ogilvy. There have been a couple of ads from Ogilvy, but the No 7 cosmetics account - which also runs in the US under the banner of Boots' parent Walgreens - has remained at Mother. That's no bad thing because this is another fine spot, but sadly it is definitely Mother's last for the client. Like its predecessors, which featured variously a ballerina, a stuntwoman and a champion fencer, this is basically a standard endorsement spot, here from "age-defying" 49-year-old surfer Lisa Andersen. But those first 20 seconds are really something out of the ordinary, grabbing the attention with some startling imagery. 

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Background

Free to all users | see full profile for current activities: Originally one of a clutch of London-based "new wave" advertising boutiques, the agency was conceived by former GGT creative director Robert Saville, who jumped ship in 1996 when he was offered the opportunity of handling the launch campaign for the UK's newest terrestrial TV broadcaster, Channel 5. He recruited three partners, creative Mark Waites from McCann-Erickson Worldwide's Amster Yard, New York; Stef Calcraft, previously account director at Bartle Bogle Hegarty; and Libby Brockhoff, an American art director also from GGT (who subsequently returned to the US to join Carmichael Lynch and later co-founded Odysseus Arms in San Francisco).

There are different accounts as to who chose the name. It seems to have been Brockhoff, as a knowing reference to both family and fearsomeness (as in the slang, "a mean mother..." or "mother of all wars". The traitorous computer in the movie Alien was also called Mother). At one point in the 1990s, Saville took credit for the choice, pointing out that your mother can be relied upon, creates things but also occasionally tells you stuff you don't want to hear. The agency's philosophy was "to do the best work you can, make a living and have fun". Adding to the agency's reputation for doing things differently, employees' business cards were for several years illustrated only with pictures of each staff member's mother. Now, the agency's rough equivalent of account executives are referred to internally as "mothers", while PAs are "nannies". 

The striking and unusual campaign for Channel 5 worked well, although Mother subsequently lost the account in 1998. Shortly afterwards Mother launched Whitbread's vodka drink Source with a memorable TV campaign featuring two Swedish terrorist babes on the run. It seemed the agency could be relied upon to make even a dull brand seem fascinating. Mother also earned a reputation for getting clients involved in and "owning" the creative process. The approach worked. The shop had no problem attracting the best new creative talent, and was famed for winning every account for which it pitched. It was Campaign's Agency of the Year in 2001, and again in 2002, a consecutive achievement equalled previously only by AMV.BBDO. In 2002, Mother enjoyed an exceptionally good year, accumulating more than £80m of new business, including the much-prized Orange account. It also won its first piece of US work, producing a typically quirky safe sex campaign for MTV that began airing in the US in 2003 (and later won an Emmy Award). 

In 2003 the group snatched the prized £90m Boots account away from WPP, its first mass-market retail account, and the biggest UK pitch that year. More importantly, the company extended its influence within Coca-Cola, after several years working on the group's brands in the UK. Mother's 'I Wish' ad for the main Coca-Cola brand was picked by the US company to run in more than 20 worldwide markets during 2004, and was the first Coke ad to run in the US which had been created outside the country. See full profile for current activities


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