This bold manifesto comes from Simon Sherwood, the managing director of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, and it explains the naked worldwide ambition of a one-office London shop that is one of the town's hottest agencies and is turning its attention to the U.S.
As the saying goes, it's not bragging if you can back it up. As for now, it seems that BBH can. Last week, Marlboro, Mass.-based Rockport Shoe Co. appointed BBH to handle its account internationally, excluding the U.S., where Mullen Advertising has the account. That win followed the agency's appointment to a worldwide assignment by the Heineken Brewery (ADWEEK, April 19). The agency now shares the account with J. Walter Thompson. Add these clients to a multinational client roster that already included Levi Strauss, for whom BBH creates ads for 36 countries (Foote, Cone & Belding handles the business in North America), Haagen-Dazs and Shell, which the shop recently lost to Ogilvy & Mather, and you have a David shop seemingly thriving in the midst of many of the world's Goliath agencies.
Executives at the agency have long had two wishes: to win international business but at the same time keep tight control over its creative product. This desire for control has long meant that the agency wasn't interested in opening offices in other countries. But, with billings of $200 million and its work running in markets outside the U.K., the shop is starting to address its overseas capabilities.
"It's open book on deals. Our whole international approach is based on the idea of centralized creativity, and once you have two creative directors, you may as well have 10. We'll do whatever we have to to realize our vision, but in the medium term, we are more likely to consider formalizing our media arrangements," Sherwood said.
The agency's overseas push began in earnest with a plan that it called Operation American Dream, which is starting to bear fruit for the agency (Global News, Jan. 18).
The essence of the 11-year-old agency's plan also reflected the nerve of the shop. Executives at BBH called some of America's most prestigious advertisers and offered to "drop by" with a presentation on why Americans need help to understand the American dream.
In the last year, the agency visited over 25 U.S. advertisers, all of whom are global marketers.
Now BBH faces a fork in the road. BBH's sole exporting of creative product will have trouble passing through some markets, the U.S. being one of them. The betting is that it will be difficult for BBH to fulfill its ambition without an American base. That leaves the agency a number of options: Stay single, strike a joint venture deal, launch a shop, purge an existing agency of its identity to create BBH in the U.S., or exchange equity in a potential partner.
As the U.K.'s biggest privately owned agency, BBH has been courted but has never come close to selling out. Yet it does not have the same reserves as a Gold Greenlees Trott, which owns GSD& M in Austin, Texas, and Martin Williams in Minneapolis.
BBH already has one ally in the U.S. in Raleigh, N.C.-based McKinney & Silver, which recently snared the $30-million Audi of America business in the U.S. Its connection with McKinney stretches back to 1986, when Piedmont was granted an Eastern Seaboard gateway and McKinney was charged with finding a U.K. partner. BBH recently gave McKinney some advice on the Audi brand in that agency's successful win in the review.
Long-term though, BBH is keeping its options open in the U.S.
Susannah Richmond is news editor at Campaign.
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)