In 1987, Gary Bayer, Ronald Bess, Anthony Vanderwarker and William Flynn purchased the Chicago office of Backer & Spielvogel and renamed it Bayer, Bess, Vanderwarker & Flynn. The following year, it was renamed Bayer Bess Vanderwarker when Mr. Flynn left.
BBV handled several successful brands at its inception, including almost $50 million in spending by Quaker Oats Co. Most prominent was Gatorade, which the agency promoted with the slogan, "Gatorade is thirst aid for that deep down body thirst." The campaign featured the NBA's Michael Jordan and the tagline "Be like Mike. Drink Gatorade."
Cap'n Crunch cereal, another account that dated to the opening of the agency, gave it an inroad into the food and children's markets that it later capitalized on when landing such accounts as Pro Set, the No. 3 marketer of sports and entertainment trading cards.
BBV quickly began to build a reputation as a creative, midsize agency and acquired other accounts. Helene Curtis' Suave line, which BBV won in 1987, remained at the agency throughout its history. The Illinois Lottery, with $19 million in spending, became part of the agency's stable in 1991.
BBV gradually added technology, services and retailing clients, and continued to broaden its list of package-goods marketers. For a time, it had the regional Domino's Pizza account, the Chicago Hilton & Towers, St. Paul Federal Bank for Savings, Spaghetti O's and Ameritech's corporate business.
By 1992, BBV had tripled its original billings, becoming the No. 2 independent agency in Chicago. It also had added staff to handle its newest account, Boston Chicken (which later became Boston Market). Despite the agency's growth, Mr. Vanderwarker took what turned out to be a permanent leave in 1992. BBV seemed to be at a crossroads.
Efforts to expand were frustrated by clients such as Gatorade and Motorola, whose growth was increasingly international. In 1992, BBV affiliated with TBWA Advertising, which handled Gatorade overseas. The following year, the agency reorganized, with Brian Goodall as general manager. That allowed Messrs. Bayer and Bess to focus more on long-term growth and client development.
By late 1994, however, it was clear that the agency's growth strategy had failed, and reports in the media raised doubts about the agency's future. A merger with TBWA was proposed, but talks between the two broke down. Shortly thereafter, Boston Market put its account up for review, and BBV lost it.
At about the same time, Quaker acquired the Snapple soft-drink brand, and BBV appeared to lack the resources it would need to handle both Gatorade and Snapple. Complicating matters, BBV's talks with TBWA alarmed Quaker because TBWA handled Quaker's rival General Mills.
Thwarted in efforts to merge with TBWA, BBV turned to True North, which acquired the agency in January 1996. Mr. Bess was named president of FCB Chicago, and Mr. Bayer continued as president of BBV, which was to operate independently under FCB Chicago.
Partly as a result of Quaker's positive experience with BBV, FCB won the Snapple account without a review. In August 1996, Mr. Bess' friendship with Herb Baum, a former agency colleague who was then chairman of Quaker State, earned FCB a $30 million Quaker State account, again without a review.
While FCB paid lip service to BBV's independence within the new organizational structure, its chief accounts—Gatorade, Helene Curtis and Campbell Soup Co.—all shifted to FCB. In 1996, BBV snared two new cereal accounts from Quaker, but that was insufficient to preserve the shop's independence. The last remnants of the agency were absorbed into FCB by the end of the year.