In 1983, Jean-Claude Boulet and Jean-Marie Dru left Young & Rubicam, taking with them a regional network with 150 employees and about $10 million in gross income. The pair was joined by creative director Marie-Catherine Dupuy and Jean-Pierre Petit, whose local agency SNIP was merged into BDDP. The four formed BDDP early the following year.
BDDP made a splash with its first campaigns: a TV spot for Hertz Corp. and an ironic print and outdoor campaign for women's ready-to-wear designer Rodier. At the end of 1994, BDDP signed a partnership agreement with Chiat/Day, the lead agency for Apple Computer and Nike in the U.S., and began adapting Chiat/Day's ads to the French market.
In 1985, BDDP bolstered its developing reputation by picking up three high-profile accounts: Mazda Motor Corp., McDonald's Corp. and Michelin. In 1986, new clients such as BMW and KLM offered additional international cachet, while creative work for Portuguese beverage marketer Porto Cruz set off what would be a decadelong string of award-winning print and outdoor campaigns.
In 1987, was selected by the French government to handle a series of privatization campaigns, winning rave reviews for its use of actress Catherine Deneuve in TV spots for the sell-off of industrial group Suez. But not all of BDDP's work was praised by its clients: An avant-garde, photo-heavy campaign for the retailer Printemps resulted in the loss of that account two years later.
BDDP began 1988 by laying the foundations for an international network. International Director Nick Baum initially targeted a Spanish agency, Solucion Diagonal, and a British shop, Waldron, Allen, Henry & Thompson, then linked the pair to Belgium-based creative shop Booster BDDP, which had been launched in 1987. Also in 1988, the agency won the international account of watchmaker TAG Heuer.
BDDP acquired a stake in Singapore-based Batey Ads in 1989, picking up the Singapore Airlines account and partner shops in Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan. It also waged a high profile but unsuccessful takeover bid for British ad agency Boase Massimi Pollitt. At the annual International Advertising Festival in Cannes that year, BDDP won three Gold Lions.
However, 1990 marked the beginning of what turned out to be a dangerous liaison with Mary Wells Lawrence, a well-known ad figure in the U.S. and chairman of Wells, Rich, Greene. BDDP initially bought a 40% stake in the WRG network, ranked No. 18 in the U.S., then increased its holding to 70% in 1991.
The WRG acquisition—valued at $150 million—pushed BDDP's global billings beyond $2.1 billion and gave it a long-sought foothold in the U.S. market, where its new division worked for such blue-chip clients as Continental Airlines, Chase Manhattan Bank, IBM Corp., Philip Morris Cos. and Procter & Gamble Co.
But BDDP's inability to control its American subsidiary proved fatal. Faced with an estimated $250 million in debt, mounting annual losses and the prospect of dismantlement, in 1994 BDDP's founders relinquished control of their agency to European Strategic Investments, a London-based investment group led by financier Walter Butler.
In December 1994, Mr. Petit was the first of the original partners to jump ship, accepting an offer from McDonald's to run its marketing in France. Then Mr. Baum moved to Euro RSCG Worldwide.
ESI found a host of international suitors for the shop—including Grey International, Saatchi & Saatchi and the WPP Group—but eventually sold the group in late 1996 to U.K.-based Gold Greenlees Trott.
The merged GGT-BDDP-led by British advertising veteran Michael Greenlees as president-showed signs of promise as early as 1997, recording nearly $400 million in gross income and placing No. 15 on Advertising Age's annual survey of international agency networks.
But in 1998, P&G dropped WRG, pulling its Gain detergent, Oil of Olay face cream and Pringles chips accounts, slashing 12% off WRG's U.S. billings. Massive sell-offs at the London Stock Exchange halved GGT-BDDP's share price, making the agency a takeover target. With sharks circling, GGT-BDDP accepted a friendly merger offer from Omnicom Group.
Although many BDDP loyalists had high hopes for the merger, Mr. Boulet shocked employees by tendering his resignation as co-chairman-CEO of BDDP Worldwide—created in 1996 when BDDP and GGT merged—in January 1998. The formal coupling between GGT-BDDP and TBWA International later that year created a global network with income topping $800 million, fulfilling Omnicom CEO John Wren's goal of launching a strong third agency network capable of standing alongside existing brands BBDO and DDB Worldwide.
Mr. Greenlees took over the presidency of TBWA International, with TBWA founder Bill Tragos as chairman. Mr. Dru, previously chairman-CEO of BDDP Worldwide, became CEO-international, charged with merging BDDP shops in more than 50 countries into TBWA.
BDDP/TBWA was France's No. 4 consolidated advertising group in 2000, with some 1,300 employees generating estimated gross income of $145 million. TBWA International dropped the BDDP brand in 2001, transforming BDDP/TBWA into TBWA Paris, a division of TBWA France.
In 2001, TBWA France ranked No. 3 in France, with gross income of $190.4 million, up 6.5% over the year earlier, on billings of $1.27 billion.
In 2004, Mr. Dru continued as CEO-international. Mr Tragos had retired, and Mr. Greenlees had left the company.