BBH show how to keep it fresh

As we start 2013, here's some inspiration on how to keep things "fresh" this year. It comes from looking at how London-based creative agency BBH had an amazing 2012 in their 30th year. They won both Campaign and Marketing Agency of the Year, and were the second-most-awarded agency in the world at Cannes. As Marketing reported, "BBH’s energy puts even the most dynamic start-ups to shame".

Notable work in 2012 included making Lynx Anarchy, a fragrance for men and women, the most successful Lynx variant (click here to watch). The "three little pigs" ad for The Guardian newspaper was one of the most talked about campaigns of the year: click below to watch.

So, how have BBH kept things fresh over three decades? Here are my thoughts, with help from our Managing Partner for NL/France, Anne, who worked at BBH.

Screen Shot 2012-12-17 at 11.37.59
1. A "founder brand"

BBH is an example of a "founder brand", where the creators of the company retain a hands-on role. In this case, John Hegarty is one of the most successful and well-known creative people in the UK. Nigel Bogle has been one of the leading lights in planning. And both of these founders have played a leading role for the 30 years of the agency's life. Only now are they handing over the reins. 

2. Distinctive customer experience

Every ad agency has basically the same brand positioning: combining creativity and strategy to develop creative work that builds a client's brand and business. The key to success is not to differentiate, by offering something different from this, but rather to be distinctive. In a service business like BBH this comes down to service "proof points" that make the culture and approach tangible. 

For example, every agency says "We believe in creativity". BBH demonstrate this by (in)famously not doing creative pitches. They will present strategy and insight. But their insight showed that 80% of creative work gets changed after the pitch was won: so why waste valuable time on this? And if you want proof of this creativity, here is our reel of advertising. In addition, they are tenacious in defending creative ideas.

3. Developing talent from within

Every agency says they believe in talent. But none does as much as BBH to really invest in talent. They have one of the best graduate training schemes. And they are also masters of talent management. The new group chief executive, Gwyn Jones, was the firm’s first management trainee! Simon Sherwood, the new group chairman, has also been in the agency for over 20 years.

4. To be number 1, train like number 2

I love the quote from John Hegarty about the BBH culture that has endured: "An enormous sense of achievement and a constant fear of impending failure". As Marketing magazines said, "It is arguably this tension that has made the agency the beacon of creativity it is today."