Newer isn't better

In the mid 1970s, I was a young copywriter at BMP.

We were pitching on the COI Fire Prevention account.

I wrote up a campaign one evening and showed it to John Webster next morning.

John said: "This is great, much better than what we’ve got, let me tell the account group."

(Even though John had already written the campaign they were going to present.)

Stanley Pollitt listened to the idea and said: "It’s very good, but we’re happy with the campaign we’ve got."

John said: "OK, let’s present both campaigns then."

Stanley said: "Nonsense, we’re not presenting more than one campaign, it makes us look like a bunch of amateurs, this isn’t pick’n’mix for clients.

"We are professionals: we work our way towards the correct solution and that is the one we present: one solution, one campaign."

And Stanley walked out, he wouldn’t let the agency present more than one campaign.

Imagine that today: an agency that refused to present more than one idea.

Nowadays the agency presents as many different approaches as it possibly can, then simply lets the client choose.

Around the same time, I went to the D&AD awards with BMP.

I was young, so I took awards very seriously, I got angry when the wrong things won.

Later, Martin Boase and I were standing alongside each other in the gents’ urinal.

Martin said to me "You know Trotty, you really must calm down, you’re taking this awards business far too seriously.

"Awards aren’t the real world, they’re not what advertising is about, they’re just a bit of fun.

"It’s like a pint of beer, the awards are just the froth on top, they’re not the actual beer.

"They’re not what we do, they’re not our actual job."

Imagine that today.

Nowadays agencies think the entire job is awards.

They pay to run fake ads, they even invent fake products, anything to win an award.

Now look at what the B and P of BMP were telling me.

And then see if you can spot what made BMP different from ordinary agencies.

They weren’t letting the client tell them what great work was.

And they weren’t letting an awards jury tell them what great work was.

They knew what great work was, thanks very much.

They had more faith in their own ability and judgement than in anyone else’s.

And they didn’t panic, chasing any account and any award and trade-press headlines.

One evening I was sitting alone in the creative department.

Martin Boase came over and said: "Trotty, we’ve just been told we can have the Tetley Tea account if we want it, but we have to use the little cartoon Tetley Tea Folk.

"John’s not around to ask, what do you think?

"Can we do anything good with them or should I say we don’t want it in that case?"

Imagine that today.

Imagine an advertising agency that put pride in doing a great job before grabbing any account just for the money.

I was very lucky BMP was where I learned how an ad agency should be run.

After 10 years I left and opened my own agency with Mike Gold and Mike Greenlees.

Using what I’d learned at BMP, we concentrated on doing great work above making money or winning awards.

In our second year, Campaign magazine voted us Agency of the Year.

And what about BMP, what happened to them?

Campaign magazine voted BMP its Agency of the Century.

Dave Trott is the author of Creative Blindness and How to Cure It, Creative Mischief, Predatory Thinking and One Plus One Equals Three

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