Stefano Hatfield On Advertising

Adland has a few showmen, but there'll only ever be one 'Baulky'

To sit across a table in Langan's from Michael Baulk and watch the chief executive of the Abbott Mead Vickers group shoot his cuffs as he settled down in his regular spot was one of the joys of schmoozing the London advertising community.

Around us the old media world's "fat boys' club" would be gorging itself to cholesterol hell. But Baulk's lunchtime ritual was a consistent source of entertainment. He would study the menu, but always order the same thing: a half-melon starter of which he ate three scoops, and then the chicken of which he ate the same number of forkfuls - all the while encouraging his companion to tuck in.

At some stage, he would switch his focus entirely towards that same companion and ask unsettlingly, "So, how can I help? What are YOU going to do with 'brand Hatfield'?" You actually believed he cared, but as with most journalists, the question made me break out in hives.

He did this, as everything else, with the inimitable flair, discipline and enthusiasm that he brought to his entire career. Over 40 years, at Ogilvy & Mather and then AMV, Baulk was one of the most effective, and - arguably - one of the more underrated, London advertising bosses.

It is difficult to recall the time when Abbott Mead was a safe, mid-table player behind the duopoly of Saatchi & Saatchi and JWT for much of the Eighties and Nineties. When Baulk arrived from Ogilvy & Mather in 1986 he brought a double-shot of street smarts and enthusiasm to the classy but conservative agency built by David Abbott, Peter Mead and Adrian Vickers.

It was as solidly middle-class as some of its clients: Volvo, the Radio Times, Sainsbury's and the Economist. Baulk energised AMV, bringing a new hunger and ambition to this most principled of agencies.

Under Baulk and his protégé Andrew Robertson, now global CEO of BBDO, new business ensued: BT, the Prudential, Guinness and more. But his crowning achievement was to lead the agency through its transformative deal with BBDO - a process completed in 1999. BBDO brought with it clients like Mars, Gillette and Pepsi-Cola.

Baulk managed that rarest of feats after such a deal with an American giant: he led the agency to greater business success while enhancing its creative reputation and ethos, which included no tobacco accounts, and no redundancies during the recessions of the 1990s.

Baulk's time was not without controversy, but persistent mutterings about what some AMV old-timers made of him paled by contrast with his almost unparalleled success, marrying extraordinary new-business growth to A-grade creativity.

Baulk was in The Ivy recently (times have changed) in dress-down Friday mode. He was Ralph Lauren-esque in jeans, but the leather jacket wasn't distressed enough. Can you shoot your cuffs in a leather jacket? Given that 14 tables were filled with ad industry types, you'd have thought there might be some sniping. Instead, there was universal respect, even affection. Believe me, it's not like that for many.

After 16 years of writing about advertising, AMV is the only agency for which I would ever have wanted to work (BBH might be the best agency in the world, but Nigel Bogle's too scary, and is it actually fun?). I am by no means alone. And that's primarily down to Baulk, who allegedly turned down the chance to have his name added to messrs Abbott, Mead and Vickers above the Marylebone Road door.

He has left the agency he so cared for in the capable hands of Cilla Snowball, equally imbued with AMV's values. But, she would be the first to say there's only one "Baulky". Now he's driving off in the Ferrari to enjoy his cleaning company interests, east-European mine investments and bingo calling. Happily, I can no longer recall which of those is real and which I just made up.

WITH BAULK gone, there's only two real advertising showmen left: (arguably) Trevor Beattie, and the irrepressible Robin Wight. With the Churchill Insurance account following Weetabix and Bulldog into Wight's WCRS, and successes like 118 118, the agency is on a roll, yet again.

WCRS FOUND it extremely hard to bounce back from the loss of Orange, which the agency had launched to huge acclaim. The client moved to Mother, which has in turn now lost the £50m account after three years.

Losing Orange to Fallon because of international realignment is the worst thing that has ever happened to Mother in its short, stellar history. It will be fascinating to see how the agency bounces back from the loss of its largest client.

Instantly, Mother is propelled into new territory: being forced to deal with the vagaries of large multinationals' tortuous politics that so often result in re-alignments for reasons that have nothing to do with the ads. It is no longer invincible.

Will Mother bounce back? Of course. There's far too much talent and drive there for this setback to prove fatal. Indeed, it is already pitching for the PG Tips account held forever by DDB London. A hungry Mother will be an agency to watch for the rest of this year.

If you've ever seen Robin Wight's lunchbox, e-mail stefanohat1@aol.com

YET, DESPITE 15 years of being "Robin'd", nothing prepared me for another recent Ivy encounter. The bow-tie may have gone, but Wight was a vision in purple, and brought along "Robin's lunch-box": a presentation kit containing a peacock's tail, a crucifix, a model of the brain and a miniature Angel of the North statue.

While the likes of Bruce Haines, Nicola Mendelsson and Michael Finn looked on from nearby tables in understandable bemusement, I got the full Robin sales pitch at the table. This was not on behalf of WCRS, but Engine, the new parent company set up by Wight, his old mucker Peter Scott, Stephen Woodford and the rest after buying themselves out from Havas.

Because of the dazzling suit, arm-waving and eternal optimism, it is easy to dismiss the extraordinarily clever Wight as an amiable eccentric. However, his current work alone on how advertising acts on the brain made for a more fascinating sales pitch than I can recall in a long time.

If you want to know what that is, then you'll just have to be brave and delve into Robin's lunch box yourself. With Michael Baulk retiring, there is no one else I know (perhaps Bill Muirhead?) who can sell shamelessly for 80 minutes and still leave you smiling and willing to come back for more. I promise to plug Wight's excellent Hackney education initiative, "the Ideas Foundation" another time. Until then, ask him about it.

Robin should be blue-plaqued as a genuine London landmark. He's living proof that multiple alimonies can be a wonderful motivator, and can coax an old dog to learn new tricks.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Voices
Jimmy Mubenga died after being restrained on an aircraft by G4S escorts
voicesJonathan Cox: Tragedy of Jimmy Mubenga highlights lack of dignity shown to migrants
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
tech
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: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Sphere Digital Recruitment: Display Account Manager

£25,000 to £35,000: Sphere Digital Recruitment: The Company Our client are th...

Sphere Digital Recruitment: Sales Director

£80 – 120K : Sphere Digital Recruitment: Sales Director – Ad tech - £80 – 120K...

Sphere Digital Recruitment: Senior Analyst – Global Sports Gaming Brand

40,000- 50,000: Sphere Digital Recruitment: Senior Analyst – Global Sports Gam...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum