It was in late August 2010 that Trevor Beattie, Founding Partner, BMB, announced his agency’s foray into India via a 50-50 joint venture with Sam Balsara’s Madison World. With this, apart from markets like UK and US, BMB established office in India, and BMB’s old hand Pat Burns turned attention to the creative output here.
Beattie, UK’s highest-profile adman, had quit Omnicom Group’s TBWA London in 2005 as Chairman and Creative Director to start up his own shop, Beattie McGuinness Bungay (BMB). He was joined by Andrew McGuinness, the Chief Executive of TBWA London, and Deputy Creative Director Bill Bungay. Film director/ producer and husband of former supermodel Claudia Schiffer, Matthew Vaughan, had also been involved.
In this exclusive interview, Noor Fathima Warsia gets Beattie talking on the ‘new normal’, agency-client relationship, Indian creativity and BMB’s India plan, among others…
The global advertising industry saw its share of downturn, and then a recovery in most markets. Though markets such as Western Europe are said to be still struggling in a sense, are we already experiencing a ‘new normal’, as many call it?
I like the phrase ‘New Normal’, however I think we in the UK are some way from achieving it, both as consumers and advertisers. Our government’s cuts programme is yet to kick in. Next year will be tougher than this, in my view.
How has the agency-client relationship changed in the last couple of years?
It’s certainly evolved, for the good and the bad. Clients seem keener than ever to engage in more creative uses of the media. Some agencies are irresponsibly slashing their fees or even working pro-bono on accounts, which is bad business. Some seem to forget that we ARE a business. Not a charity.
At the same time, there are big advertisers like The Coca-Cola Company, Unilever, Procter & Gamble talking about the ‘open brief’. What is the future of this approach to communication?
It should be seen as an addition to our business. I don’t think it’s good for long-term brand-building. It’s a good way of sparking-up a campaign, for creating the occasional spike.
You are amongst those who believe that Indian creativity is finding a voice of its own. Where do you place BMB’s international experience in India, as you have made your way here?
I hope we can reflect the best of Indian culture in our clients’ work. The only Indian advertising I’m not impressed with is that which looks at the West for inspiration. Our work will never wear a baseball cap. I’ve been studying new Indian work recently and there’s some classy stuff. We can’t wait to join in. There’s a positive vibe to the work.
We do understand that you would like to depute someone from the London office to guide the creative function of BMB Madison – please do explain more on your thought process behind this?
It was Sam Balsara who first suggested that BMB India have an English Creative Director. Together, we felt that it was vital that someone who fully understood the ‘BMB way’ led its first creative output. Pat Burns was the first creative we hired at BMB. He gets it. He knows us inside out and has also been responsible for our best creative work over the last five years. Great creatives understand and illustrate the human condition, regardless of nationality. And Pat is a great creative. I think it’ll be a perfect combination.
For BMB, it was a big year, since the India plan is finally taking shape. You chose a unique partner, who perhaps was the single best fit in the market. What are BMB’s expectations from India in your overall growth plan?
It’s more about creativity than growth. If we produce great work for our clients, they’ll grow. Only then will WE grow. It starts and ends with the work.
You have met with many clients in India as well by now – any takeaway that you may have that marks their difference from the clients in markets such as the UK?
The clients I’ve met in India have everything in common with those I work with in London. They’re facing the same challenges, the same issues. I did, however, get a greater sense of optimism than is apparent in the UK. They really do sense that Indian marketing (like the nation) is really going places! (Like the Moon).
Finally, in the communications industry, perception is reality, and winning awards does impact perception. Would you agree with that?
Awards are important. But I see them as a reward for work which has impact. It’s how we judge the impact that counts. Brand fame is what we seek. And awards should be both given for that, and be a part of it. So-called ‘scam’ ads, however, should be hunted down and banned, and their creators publicly humiliated, and if at all possible, summarily executed.
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