On a roll at the brasserie

Roger Trapp reports on an advertising agency where all the cooks are creative

This Wednesday, just in time for the start of the new school year, a quirky promotional campaign will be launched to raise the profile of that long-time children's favourite, the Cadbury's Mini Roll.

The core of the initiative is a "mini safe" embossed with the words "hands off" and designed to hold a single cake to encourage lunchbox use. Responsibility for building awareness of the promotion, which will be carried on 4.5 million six-packs of mini rolls, rests with a series of television commercials that parody public information films from the 1950s.

The agency that created the campaign is as distinctive as the ads it has produced. The Advertising Brasserie is not the only organisation in its industry to have eschewed the traditional policy of taking its name from those of its founders. Nor is it the only one claiming to be offering a variety of communications and marketing services. But where it does appear to be different is in challenging the way in which advertising works.

Operating under the slogan of a "task-driven approach to breakthrough advertising ideas", the small organisation, based just off London's Oxford Street, seeks to distinguish itself from its rivals by getting away from what it sees as the usual service-based relationship. This typically entails clients signing up for a two-year arrangement with a particular agency in return for a monthly fee.

Mischa Alexander, one of the four founding partners, says: "That way of working is fine for a lot of clients, but it is clearly not right for everyone." He and his colleagues - who have all worked together for several years - would rather think in terms of dealing with a client's needs of the moment, typically coming up with an idea. Operating in this way, he maintains, "forces you to think in terms of the value of what you're doing".

The other benefit of setting up as an "ideas factory" rather than a provider of general advertising services is that it enables the partners to stay in contact with the client. "We are a small team of senior people," says Mr Alexander. "We have deliberately chosen to have this type of business, rather than be managers in large agencies."

The brasserie idea is not entirely new. Mr Alexander, whose speciality is account management and business development, set up something similar when he was working at Howell Henry Chaldecott Lury with Chris McDonald, a planning and strategy specialist, and the creative team of Dave Shelton and Liz Waldron . Then - when the market was buoyant - the brasserie was seen as complementary to the main agency. The foursome got their chance to see if the idea worked as a stand-alone when HHCL was bought by Chime Communications two years ago and they left by amicable agreement.

The past two years have, they say, been successful according to their own three yardsticks: they have a profitable business; they have produced a series of innovative campaigns for blue-chip clients - including the Disney cable channel, the pubs and hotels group Bass and the foods firm RHM; and they have had fun doing it, says Mr Alexander.

The workforce has grown from the original quartet to only 12 staff. But all concerned stress that an important part of the way they operate is bringing in expertise when it is needed.

"A lot of large accounts are recognising the distinction between ideas and service, and that they may not get those in the same place," says Mr Alex-ander. Then it is possible for the brasserie, say, to come up with an idea that is then looked after by a different agency, rather like strategic management consultants may identify a market but then leave it to another firm to implement the strategy.

In such a way, the brasserie can produce a sustainable business without growing to such an extent that the basic attraction - of selling creative skills - is lost.

As Mr McDonald says: "If we followed the traditional model we would probably have 30 people already. But we're convinced we don't need to as we deliver things differently."

One of the clearest differences - apart from the fact that the agency's office abandons the traditional flashy reception area - is the policy of filming its own ads. This is usually contracted out to specialist production firms - a policy that can cause delays and add to the distance between film maker and client. But the brasserie claims it can reduce delays and increase flexibility at the same time as making the client more involved.

So far, the approach seems to be working. Ads for Paxo, designed to show how the stuffing could be used on its own, are claimed to have have halted a long-term decline in market share. Another humourous ad, aimed at informing viewers of the merits of McCain's pizzas, elicited an unprecedented customer response.

Time will tell if the trick will be repeated with Cadbury's 30-year- old Mini Rolls. But a strong marker has been put down.

News
people
Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

Market Risk & Control Manager

Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...

SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

Head of Audit

To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam