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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
News
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
news
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
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

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Austen Lloyd: Law Costs HOD - Southampton

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: An outstanding new...

SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £21000 per annum + uncapped commission: SThree: As a graduate you are...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn