Batey Ads was launched in Singapore in 1972 by Ian Batey. When the governments of Malaysia and Singapore terminated their joint operating agreement for Malaysia Singapore Airlines and the Singapore government moved to establish Singapore Airlines, Mr. Batey pitched the account, won it and opened shop to handle SIA's advertising.
Batey's Singapore Airlines campaigns, featuring the Singapore Girl (represented by sarong-clad SIA flight attendants) and the slogan, "Singapore Girl, you're a great way to fly," helped establish the airline as the No. 6 international carrier by 1987.
Rather than chasing new clients, Batey Ads concentrated primarily on developing relations with existing clients, but by the end of the 20th century, the agency's Singapore office had more than 20 clients. In addition to SIA, accounts included the Singapore Tourist Promotion Board and Raffles Hotel.
In the 1990s, the Batey Group sought to expand its reach in Asia, striving in particular to strengthen its three strongest branches: Singapore, Hong Kong and Sydney. In Singapore, Batey expanded into public relations and brand management, adding Michael de Krestser Consultants, John Hagely Communications, Tequila Asia Pacific and Maximise Singapore as group partners.
Batey Kazoo Communications, the group's Sydney office, developed from a strong retail background to become a major-brand ad agency handling such prestigious clients as the Australian Broadcasting Corp., Telstra and SmithKline Beecham. Batey Kazoo was Australia's fastest growing agency in 1995.
Although the economic crisis in Asia cut the agency's billings in Thailand and halted its growth in Malaysia in 1997 and 1998, billings in Taiwan grew more than 50% from 1996 to 1998. In 2000, the Taiwan office ranked No. 15 in the nation.
In 1997, the WPP Group took 30% equity in Batey Group. Batey's management retained a majority on the board and control of operations of Batey Ads. For the Batey Group, the association with WPP brought in capital to facilitate expansion. The WPP connection also enabled Batey Group to win the global launch of Swatch's Skin line of watches in 1999 and the global campaign for Mercedes-Benz' C Class automobiles in 2000.
In 1999, Ian Batey was awarded the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award by the Singapore Advertising Hall of Fame.
In 2000, the WPP Group boosted its equity in Batey to 50.2%; Batey Ads USA closed its Los Angeles office that year. For 2001, the agency group, renamed Red Cell Asia that year, had worldwide gross income of $22.4 million, down 14.5% from its 2000 figures, on billings of $149.1 million, also down 14.5% from year-earlier numbers.
In terms of 2001 gross income, Batey's Singapore office ranked No. 7 in the republic, down from No. 4 the year earlier.