Stefano Hatfield on Advertising

There's life yet in the old Saatchi brothers' BA affair

Obviously, in the 20-odd years since the Saatchi brothers were first appointed and coined the old "world's favourite airline" tagline, the account never did move to JWT or any other agency with which it was linked, notably Bartle Bogle Hegarty.

Now, it appears there really is a serious threat to the brothers' hold on the account. New BA chief executive Willie Walsh has instigated a formal review of the £60m account despite BA's extraordinary sector-leading £540m 2004 operating profits, and Walsh's acknowledgement that BA had marketed its way out of trouble.

So important is the flagship account in the London ad industry, that the Paddy Power bookmaker has created a book on the race, installing M & C Saatchi as odds-on favourite ahead of JWT. Unsurprisingly, Saatchi & Saatchi is a 50-1 rank outsider.

I'm not one to argue with bookies. Frankly, I would be amazed if the account moved: first, because of a relationship built on outstanding creative work; and second, because of a relationship maintained through outstanding account handling. That staggering profits figure won't hurt, either.

We all have our own favourite BA ads. Perhaps the iconic winking "face" commercial directed by Hugh Hudson, or the "where is everybody?" campaign, which tried to get people to fly again after the first Gulf War? Maybe the "red eye" spot, which helped define the yuppie era?

My own favourite was the weekend mini-breaks cinema ad spoof of Woody Allen's Purple Rose of Cairo in which a real-life actress planted in the cinema audience stood up to berate her partner "Colin", caught on film cavorting with another woman in Paris. It was a genuine surprise to those present in the audience when I saw it.

As well as the great ads, the successive Saatchi executives on the account have been among advertising's best: names like Maurice Saatchi himself, Bill Muirhead, David Kershaw, Moray Maclennan and Tim Duffy. Creative directors on the account included Charles Saatchi, Jeremy Sinclair and Simon Dicketts.

It's the confidence engendered by such quality names that enabled the then British Airways chief boss Sir Colin (later, Lord) Marshall to kickstart the brothers' second agency in 1995 with his account, following Maurice's unceremonial ousting in December 1994.

Still the rumours persisted. I remember one particularly insistent source admonishing me for doubting his JWT tip one slow morning at Campaign. Less than 10 hours before I had watched the mercurial Bill Muirhead physically helping a rather tired former BA chairman Lord King into a limo after a particularly liquid "30-club" black-tie dinner.

It would take more than agency gossips to dislodge such a relationship, and one would hope it might take more than a procurement review. Having said that, with profits up, numbers of travellers up and profitable premium travellers up last month, and with good work - on both sides of the Atlantic - they will probably switch agencies now. If there is any sense still to be made of the ad business, I hope BA proves me wrong.

ANDY LAW was once something of a wide-eyed idealist. He had the whole UK ad industry on his side when he declined to be taken over by TBWA when boss of Chiat Day London. Instead, he gambled on founding St Luke's, which would become one of the Nineties' most influential agencies. That seems an age ago now; a business lifetime of how-to management books and the lucrative lecture circuit.

Since then, Law's relationship with St Luke's ended acrimoniously. Then, his Boy Meets Girl venture went horribly belly-up with two successive sets of partners - first, Kate Stanners and hubby David Pemsel; and then, the newly arrived Logan Wilmont and Chris Chalk - departing in anger. Shortly afterwards, the staff were reported to be reduced to appropriating agency property in lieu of salary as the receivers were called in.

Now, he is apparently setting up "a new type of global agency" Law and Kenneth Worldwide, with the former chief executive of St Luke's India, Praveen Kenneth. The new network will "reinvent the way the business of advertising communication is known". Allegedly. The agency aims to have 18 offices around the world within a year. Apparently.

I would love to comment, but the libel laws in the UK are a little more limiting than those I have become used to in New York. Therefore, let's just wish Praveen, whom I don't know, the best of luck, and caution all readers everywhere of the dangers that lurk in believing your own press.

WHEN IS a naked woman with her hand between her legs sprawled across a hard-back chair simply enjoying some "me time"? When she is in an Accurist watches press ad, that's when. In response to a complaint from the public to the Advertising Standards Authority, Accurist claimed that the model was simply in a "natural and comfortable" pose in an ad reflecting how women juggled work, family and social activities in their busy lives. Silly, cynical me. There was I thinking that a hot model dressed only in gold leaf strips with her fingers in her crotch and her head thrown back in ecstacy might actually have been masturbating. It does bring a whole new meaning to the phrase "quality time".

THE TRAGIC events of last Thursday overshadowed the Olympics 2012 joy of the previous day. It also curtailed what would have been a mini-avalanche of victory-related ads. However, these would already have been more difficult to run than in the past due to a proposed new bill enshrining in law restrictions concerning the use of the Olympics five-rings logo. It is, of course, designed to protect the real "Lords of the Rings": mega-corporations like McDonald's and Coca-Cola, which pony up tens of millions of dollars to be official Olympics sponsors. Now, it's true the modern-day Olympics could not exist as they are without their sponsors' massive cash injections, but isn't the Olympics supposed to be for all - not just Big Mac munchers? It is difficult to see how winning the Olympics will benefit all levels of the British economy unless some common sense is applied to the licensed use of the rings.

The writer is senior editor, Metro International

HATFIELD'S WORST IN SHOW KFC

I've watched it again and again, both on the telly and online. Maybe I'm having an irony bypass after five years in the United States, but I can't for the life of me see this KFC ad as anything other than ugly, patronizing and reinforcing the stereotypes I assume it purports to mock.

I actually really like all the other ads in Bartle Bogle Hegarty's breezy campaign, including those parents getting it on over the ice cream, and the much-complained-about spot where the call centre workers sing with their mouths full (Shock! Horror!). But this spot falls flat.

The dowdy mum singing "I can feed the family for £9.99" is tragic enough without her lump of a husband mocking her with "great, she hasn't cooked" in front of the kids. The only good things about it are a) it's mercifully short and b) the parents are depicted unusually as realistically overweight. Not surprising, given what's on the tray, but I am sure it's accidental.

Stefano.hatfield@metro.us

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