Wild Dirty Talk

The Showcase 2022

Kicking Off Its Fifth Decade With New Gen Leaders And Vigour: BBH's 2022

A renewed sense of creativity, fuelled by joy is set to shape the way forward for the industry

By Creative Salon

As BBH celebrates 40 years of its creative heritage this year, the agency looks more than ready to deliver the next wave of creative excellence.

It's been a rather busy year at the Kingly Street offices. From Alex Grieve returning to the black sheep flock as its chief creative officer, to Holly Ripper being promoted to managing director, to the nabbing of Tony Cullingham for the revamp of its creative placement programme Barn, to the opening up of a Dublin office with Tesco as founding client, to winning Netflix and adding more from Barclaycard and Tesco. And to top it off, the agency has successfully been reclaiming our proudest national characteristic - the weird British sense of humour - in ads for Ribena and Wild deodorant.

BBH CEO Karen Martin gives us her take on the almost-frenzied year and, below, Creative Salon rounds up the company's fast-paced twelve months.

Karen Martin, CEO, BBH London

What three words would you use to describe 2022?

Consistent (with more unprecedented stuff). Rewarding.


Talk us through some of your agency’s highlights this year?

The work is getting better. It’s creating a culture of confidence and fun. It’s been a joy to watch. More to do of course, but we’re on our way.

The Barn just gets better and better, we’re committed to it. Watching new industry talent go on to be so successful is brilliant.

We’ve had some nice wins including Netflix; Blackstone; Wayfair; and Wild; and we’ve boosted existing client business with Barclaycard; with new projects from Tesco and Genentech.

Launching our Dublin office back in May was a personal highlight, because Dublin is brilliant (said with no bias).

We turned 40, and launched a global film competition ‘Differently Does It’, to support a generation of creative talent, and the winning films will be released in early 2023.

What one thing are you proudest of this year?

I’m really proud of the agency culture, we’ve reduced churn, and people seem genuinely happy again. Our work is getting stronger, you can feel the confidence in the agency.

And what’s been your biggest challenge?

At the beginning of the year we all hoped that things would get back to a somewhat normal position, but that didn’t happen and suddenly we’d more challenges to contend with. It’s hard to motivate when there is so much to worry about.

What are you most looking forward to in 2023?

More of the same, we’ve got a brilliant creative department with a different shape of work and a new Black Sheep Studios team.

We’ve had some nice wins, with nice work and there’s just more to come.

BBH is on the up and we’re all feeling it.

What one change would you most like to see in our industry next year?

Confidence and generosity in our industry.

And I'd also like to see a celebration of commercial creativity as it feels like we’re hitting peak saturation in purpose-led work.

Creative Salon on BBH's 2022

It never comes as surprise when BBH becomes the poaching ground for rivals. At the start of the year, McCann London named managing director Polly McMorrow its new CEO. A few days later, BBH did some poaching of its own, appointing Alex Grieve, the chief creative officer at AMV, as its global and UK chief creative officer. It marked a return home, Grieve having spent 14 years at BBH in the early part of his career.

Alex's arrival was followed by a series of senior promotions. Holly Ripper became managing director and Stephen Ledger-Lomas was made chief production officer. And together with ECD Helen Rhodes (who joined the agency from BBC last year) and CEO Karen Martin, there is an energy and confidence that is so very infectious. There are no sense of the ghosts of the past lingering but a continued focus and indeed obsession around craft and production.

This momentum led to pitch wins for Barclaycard, Netflix and Ribena. And it showed that it can still dazzle when BBH marked the month of Ramadan in April for Tesco with an innovative campaign about Iftar, the evening meal to signify the end of the daily fast. It collaborated with The Unmistakables to launch the campaign, where Tesco used digital billboards to create the illusion of plates filling up with food, but only as the sun sets and the Muslim community can break their fast.This campaign has been notching up effectiveness awards.

Wanting to showcase that the agency continues to have the ambition and the spirit of a startup, Karen announced the opening of a new office in Dublin in May, with Tesco as its founding client.

Meanwhile more creative jewels followed - including the cheeky irreverent debut campaign for Ribena and the slightly strange but mesmeric campaign featuring a randy polar bear for Wild deodorant brand. And an unexpected one for Tesco - a TikTok competition, where the retailer put out a casting call for Clubcard users to be the voice of its self-checkouts, to heighten the "thrill at the till" experience when they see the price of their shopping bill drop. The contest went viral. It was probably a year of the unexpected from Tesco - its Christmas campaign put a tongue-in-cheek spin on the political dramas with the introduction of a Christmas Party, which promises “more pigs in more blankets for more people” and “a referendum to see if Love Actually is the greatest Christmas film”. The minimalist OOH campaign for Burger King earlier this year used the Whopper’s striped pattern to mock its competitors. Each illustration showcased a burger adorned with a seven-line design.

Its 40th year also marked the the revamp of its creative placement programme Barn, headed up by Tony Cullingham, the former leader of The Watford Advertising Course; and the expansion of Black Sheep Studios to form a full-service production company.

Creative Salon Says: The legacy of BBH is not easy to forget, and rightly so. It has one of the proudest histories in our industry. But the new leadership team knows that it cannot live by its past glories alone. Not weighed down by its heritage, BBH appears to be working towards a new future, and be the agency that can help clients realise that risk-taking is essential to creative excellence, against a joyous backdrop. It'll be the making of a better industry.


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