Claire Beale on Advertising

As a top name quits BBH, can an agency be big and beautiful?

Perhaps more than any industry, advertising is a people business. The fact that most of its best practitioners work within a couple of miles of each other, with Soho still the industry's heart, means that it's a close-knit community. So, every hiring, firing and fling gets pored over with intensity, and last week's people news provided plenty of fat to chew.

First up, Bartle Bogle Hegarty, an agency held in such high regard by peers that it's not often at the centre of industry gossip. Could there be trouble at the top?

BBH does succession management very well. In fact, it does loyalty very well; it has always been an agency for which people have fought to work, and once in, they tend to stick around. It nurtures careers, promotes wisely, and usually hangs on to its best people in an industry where staff churn is usually high.

So the news that its deputy chairman and top planner, Guy Murphy, is jumping ship to JWT after 14 years came as a shock - not only because the move suggests a ruffle in the otherwise smooth management strategy at BBH, but because JWT is so counter to the culture Murphy is used to.

Murphy takes on the global planning director mantle at JWT, an agency sometimes called the home of planners; its heritage in the discipline is unquestioned. Even so, JWT seems an odd place for someone used to the creative oxygen of BBH and the nimble micro-network culture. It's certainly a challenge for Murphy, and will stretch his management skills to the limit. But Murphy is a coup for JWT, a strong signal that the network is finally focused on reinvention.

What it says about BBH right now is rather harder to fathom, but Murphy's departure has sent eyebrows skywards. And the emergence of cracks in the agency that has generally been considered London's finest for the past few years is being gleefully picked over by rivals. After BBH won the huge Omo and British Airways businesses last year, observers have been predicting a tough time for the agency as it struggles to bed down such enormous international accounts.

And Murphy's departure follows a patchy creative performance at the agency this year. There was the exit of £50m of Sony Ericsson business (resigned by BBH after the agency felt compromised in its ability to deliver good work on the account), and the decision to part with a couple of smaller clients who were providing conflict problems. As a result, rivals have been painting a picture of crisis.

In truth, BBH's success is bound affect the agency's culture and the sort of work it produces. You don't take on a huge piece of Unilever business without some compromise to your reputation as a local hotshop. The toe-curling ads for Surf highlight quite how much the agency is compromising its creative standards.

BBH is turning into an interesting case-study on whether it's possible to be big and beautiful. The reels of most big networked agencies in London would suggest that it's not.

* Jonathan Mildenhall is smart, black, gay and passionate. Given adland's appalling record on diversity, that makes him rarer than a female creative director. Now, Mildenhall is also off, quitting as strategy director of Mother to become vice-president global marketing at Coca-Cola.

For a guy whose career looked on the skids a couple of years ago after an embarrassingly thwarted move to TBWA New York, Mildenhall makes a triumphant gamekeeper. And he's the second adman in a month to jump client-side to a big marketing job: Rick Bendel quit Publicis a couple of weeks ago to become Asda's marketing chief. A trend?

At Coke, Mildenhall will command a $2bn marketing arsenal and work with the world's best creative agencies, Mother among them. Expect Mother's ascendancy on Coke's roster to continue once Mildenhall is installed in Atlanta.

BEALE'S BEST IN SHOW

Seventy thousand litres of paint, 622 bottle bombs, 455 mortars, 1,700 detonators. For sheer bravura, the new Sony Bravia ad from Fallon, directed by Jonathan Glazer, wins hands down as the best ad this week.

And it's good. OK, not as good as "balls", its breathtakingly beautiful predecessor. That's impossible. But "paint" is stunning. Like Bravia, it's all about colour - bright, primary, kiddie colour, exploding all over a Glasgow council estate. There's no narrative, no real depth: it's all spectacle. But what a spectacle...

What really takes the breath is the sheer effort that has gone into setting it up. All that paint, all those explosives, and all meticulously placed and knife-edge timed. And the pattering of paint as it showers to earth at the end is exquisite.

The TV ad is the culmination of months of carefully seeding interest in the film. From fuzzy making-ofs on YouTube and genuine consumer webchat about the ad to teasers on bravia-advert.com and a well-orchestrated PR campaign, "paint" is an example of how advertising as entertainment can extract maximum value from a budget.

It is not only one of the best ads of the year, but one of the smartest campaigns as well.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
footballHe started just four months ago
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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 Media

Ashdown Group: Brand Marketing Manager - Essex - £45,000 + £5000 car allowance

£40000 - £45000 per annum + car allowance: Ashdown Group: Senior Brand Manager...

Guru Careers: .NET Developer /.NET Software Developer

£26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a .NET Developer /.NET Software ...

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing Exec (SEO / PPC)

£18 - 24k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing...

Guru Careers: Technical Operations Manager

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Technical Ope...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect