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 Social Media 16th Jan 2019: "The Nightclub". Mother's latest for Ikea in the UK is not perhaps the agency's best work for the brand, but still better than much of the competition. To promote the retailer's beds and mattresses, Mother takes the idea of a nightclub at face value as a place not to stay awake but to go to sleep in the company of like-minded individuals. There are some cute gags along the way: the cereal bar, toast kebabs and milky tea cocktails, but this feels more like the enhanced record of what was presumably an experiential event than a fully scripted commercial. We still have fond memories of Mother's beds-in-the-sky ad for Ikea four years ago with Prospero's closing monologue from The Tempest as the voiceover.

Adbrands Weekly Update 15th Nov 2018: Ads Of The Week: "Chicken's Here To Stay". Seems even KFC gets its own special Christmas spot this year. Actually, we have no complaints, because this film from Mother is just great, with a funny idea and gorgeous photography, although we suspect that the star of the film comes almost entirely from a computer rather than a coop. For what it's worth, it's also another bold throwdown against customers who would prefer not to make a direct connection between those breadcrumbed pieces in a box and the living creature whence they originate. Two years ago, Mother's debut campaign for KFC generated almost 500 complaints for featuring a strutting live bird. Many complaints suggested the ad was "disrespectful" of chickens. You can't really make the same argument this time, because this chicken is clearly one bad son of a hen. There's a reason it's not called Kentucky Fried Turkey.

Adbrands Weekly Update 25th Oct 2018: Satellite broadcaster Sky named Mother as its new lead creative agency in the UK, taking over from WCRS, which will continue to manage mobile and broadband services. Brothers & Sisters stays on the roster for creative projects. That's a major gain for Mother: Sky was the UK's top-spending advertiser in 2017, ahead even of Procter & Gamble. Another, rather smaller win for Mother this week is UK shoe retailer Dune.

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. 

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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