In 1973, John Bartle, Nigel Bogle and John Hegarty co-founded the London office of advertising agency TBWA. Mr. Bartle, the son of a Leeds bus inspector, moved from marketing services manager at Cadbury Schweppes to planning director at TBWA. In 1967, at the age of 19, Mr. Bogle started as a trainee with Leo Burnett Co., eventually becoming one of eight account group heads before he moved to TBWA as a founding partner. In 1979, Messrs. Bartle and Bogle became joint managing directors of TBWA.
Mr. Hegarty began his advertising career as a junior art director at Benton & Bowles in 1965. He worked briefly for John Collins & Partners before joining Cramer Saatchi (later Saatchi & Saatchi) in 1967. Within one year he became deputy creative director. At TBWA, he was creative director.
When TBWA decided not to reward Messrs. Bartle, Bogle and Hegarty with greater equity in the agency, the trio decided to launch their own shop in 1982. Within four months, BBH claimed billings of $8.4 million from three major clients—Audi AG, Whitbread Beer Co. and Levi Strauss & Co.—none of which came from TBWA. By May 1989, the agency had billings of $140 million.
In the 1980s, BBH reenergized sales of Levi's jeans by injecting liberal doses of sex, humor and street savvy into the marketer's advertising. A 1985 TV spot showed male model Nick Kamen stripping off his 501s in a laundromat. Levi's U.K. sales rose eightfold, and the commercial had to be taken off the air temporarily while Levi Strauss stepped up production to meet the demand. The spot's sound track—Marvin Gaye's "Heard It Through the Grapevine"—started a trend of rereleased hits used in commercials. By 2000, seven singles linked to Levi's commercials had reached No. 1 on U.K. record charts.
Starting with the first pan-European campaign by BBH for Levi's jeans in 1985, the brand was consistently No. 1 in every European market through 2001, with TV and cinema campaigns running in 22 countries worldwide (not including the U.S.).
In BBH's brand-building campaign for Audi, the automaker's existing slogan was presented in German, "Vorsprung durch Technik" (Advance through technology) and entered the popular idiom in several European countries. The campaign transformed the brand from a bland Euro-car to a prestige marque.
In 1989, Whitbread assigned its then-newly acquired Boddingtons beer to BBH, and the agency used print ads to help reverse what had been declining sales for the brand, turning the regional brew into a national brand. Boddingtons became a market leader within 18 months of the new campaign.
In the early 1990s, BBH revolutionized the image of the premium ice cream Haagen-Dazs. In a milestone U.K. print campaign, the agency eschewed TV and repositioned the brand as an adult treat to be shared in a mood of sensual intimacy. The provocative ads fueled considerable controversy in the media, which decried the ads' gratuitous use of sex. BBH defended its strategy with research showing that consumers described the experience of eating ice cream as "languorous" and "sensuous." In 1991, U.K. sales of Haagen-Dazs were nearly four times that of the year earlier.
In 1993, BBH also became the first shop named agency of the year at the International Advertising Festival in Cannes, winning more awards than any other agency in the world; it took the honor again in 1994.
By the end of 1996, billings topped $280 million. As a measure of its success in "exporting" advertising abroad, BBH received the Queen's Award for Export Achievement in both 1996 and 1997, the only ad agency to win this award. In 1997, BBH was named international agency of the year by Advertising Age.
In December 1997, Leo Burnett Co. purchased a minority stake in BBH. Both agencies were privately held under holding company Bcom3, with only the media area overlapping. In January 2000, BBH and the Leo Group (then the parent of Leo Burnett Co.) merged their respective U.K. media operations, Motive and Starcom, to form a Starcom Motive Partnership. The merged company created the third-largest media services company in the U.K., with estimated annual billings of $616 million.
In 1998, BBH employed a total of 429 staff and had total billings of $389.2 million. With ads running in more than 60 countries, approximately half of BBH's clients were international. In 2001, Bartle Bogle Hegarty had worldwide gross income of $73.9 million, down 5% over 2000, on billings of $581.3 million, down 4.5%. BBH, under chief executive Nigel Bogle, is 49% owned by Burnett, part of Publicis Groupe. Its Web site is www.bartleboglehegarty.com.
According to its Web site, BBH in 2004 had 510 employees globally and $700 million in billings, with offices in London, Singapore, Tokyo, New York and Sao Paolo.