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 21st Dec 2017: Ads of the Week: "Be The Gift". For most people, Christmas and New Year is a time for celebration, but for some it can be the loneliest week of the year. Mother does a fine job of trying to rebuild the Nokia handset brand - now managed by an independent Finnish company under license - with a touching film about a mother (hey, coincidence!) and her absent son, connected only by their mobiles. It's a familiar theme for any Christmas, but seems to be even more prevalent in 2017.

Adbrands Weekly Update 2nd Nov 2017: London indie agency Mother has established a presence in Asia for the first time as a result of a partnership deal with regional shop The Secret Little Agency, which has offices in Shanghai and Singapore. The Chinese office will rebrand as Mother Shanghai, and will be majority controlled by Mother. TSLA Singapore, in which the British group will take a minority stake, will retain its existing name. The two agencies already work together on the global Nokia mobile handsets account.

Adbrands Weekly Update 25th Oct 2017: Ads of the Week: "Hooray!". Plenty of reasons to be cheerful in this lively and inventive spot from Mother London for Ikea UK. Now if I had a house like that, with stairs that become a slide and where you can walk on the walls, I'd probably never leave. This marks a return to form for Mother with Ikea after a couple of slightly weaker ads. Colour us delighted. 

Adbrands Weekly Update 20th Jul 2017: Ads of the Week: "The Whole Chicken". Mother's debut for KFC UK is typically quirky - the agency is gradually returning to those oddball types of ads with which it first made its name in the 1990s. There's actually something rather dark about using live healthy chickens to advertise their own deep-fried remains. And we're not too sure about wanting to eat "the whole chicken", feet, feathers, giblets, comb and all. And how exactly does "nothing but the chicken" accommodate the addition of the Colonel's blend of herbs and spices and batter? Perhaps it's best not to think about all that and just celebrate the undeniable screen presence of this particular fowl. 

Adbrands Weekly Update 13th Jul 2017: Ads of the Week: "Lion Man". Here's the latest from Mother for Ikea in the UK. What a life a house lion must lead if his only job is to look after the kids from time to time! The ad is pretty good, if not perhaps a minor classic like those t-shirt birds or the revolving kitchen. This has been an immensely productive relationship over the years, so we hope Mother has a few killer concepts up its sleeve for Ikea in the Autumn to maintain the momentum. We'd wager they wouldn't want a review of the business in the wake of the Boots loss. 

More about Mother from Adbrands Weekly Update


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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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