Abbott Mead Vickers was created in 1979, two years after David Abbott joined Peter Mead and Adrian Vickers at Mead Davies & Vickers, which was renamed Abbott Mead Davis & Vickers. Mr. Abbott took over the creative department from Peter Mayle, the agency's chairman, who departed soon after. At about the same time, AMV sold a minority stake in the agency to Scali McCabe Sloves, a U.S. agency then owned by Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide.
In November 1985, AMV obtained a listing on the London Stock Exchange. In its first deal as the publicly quoted Abbott Mead Vickers Group, AMV bought London-based agency Leagas Delaney in July 1986.
By 1991, AMV was eager to get out of its deal with Scali McCabe Sloves and was searching for access to an international agency network. After prolonged negotiations, Scali's parent WPP Group sold that agency's share of AMV to Omnicom Group, whose BBDO network ended up with a 22% stake in AMV. BBDO merged AMV with its own faltering London office to form Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO.
The agency quickly began winning pan-European business, including Wrangler jeans and ICI Dulux paints, and became the lead agency in Europe on international BBDO accounts, such as Pizza Hut and Pepsi-Cola International. In 1994, the agency won the $80 million British Telecom business, believed to be the largest single U.K. account at that time.
The AMV Group has bought or started a number of companies over the years. In 1993, AMV acquired BHWG Co., a direct marketing agency that became the lead shop for Proximity BBDO. The following year, AMV acquired both public relations firm Freud Communications and custom publisher Redwood Publishing. In 1996, AMV acquired its own media specialist company, Pattison Horswell Durden, and renamed it New PHD.
AMV/BBDO's creative success continued unabated during a period of transition following the retirement of Mr. Abbott, who stepped down as chairman on his 60th birthday in October 1998. A year earlier, he had handed over the creative reins to Deputy Creative Director Peter Souter. AMV and BBDO began to move toward a full merger, and executives of Leagas Delaney bought that agency back in a $6 million deal in March 1998.
BBDO took full ownership of AMV at the beginning of 1999, and AMV executives began taking on broader roles in BBDO. In March 1999, Peter Mead, group chairman of AMV, assumed the additional title of Omnicom vice chairman, and Michael Baulk added the job of chairman-CEO of BBDO Europe to that of chairman-CEO of the Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO Group. Managing Director Andrew Robertson was named president-CEO of BBDO North America, a role that positioned him as a contender to succeed BBDO Chairman-CEO Allen Rosenshine.
The agency is best known for a campaign in the 1980s for J. Sainsbury supermarkets that redefined supermarket advertising in the U.K.; distinctive, witty posters for The Economist throughout the 1990s; and Volvo ads built around a safety strategy.
In 2000, AMV/BBDO won more creative awards than any other ad agency in the world. A series of print ads and TV spots for Guinness swept award shows, and one U.K. Guinness commercial called "Surfer" won more creative awards than any other in 2000. In the $1.5 million "Surfer" spot, surfers wait to catch the perfect wave, a majestic cascade that is transformed into prancing white horses. When Guinness consolidated its accounts late in 2000, AMV/BBDO won the bulk of the brewer's global advertising, split with Saatchi & Saatchi.
In 2001, Abbott Mead Vickers/BBDO was the No. 4 ad agency in the U.K., down from No. 3 in 2000, with gross income of $180.3 million, down 11.2% from 2000, on billings of $1.46 billion.