Howell Henry Chaldecott Lury was founded in London on Oct. 1, 1987, by Rupert Howell of Young & Rubicam; Steven Henry and Axel Chaldecott of WCRS; Adam Lury from Boase, Massimi, Pollitt; and Robin Price of video production company Frontline Video. Early agency clients included Marie Claire and the Danish bacon marketer Danepak.
The shop's early success has been attributed to its department-free, collaborative organizational style. The agency became known for its "tissue meetings," where a range of campaign and branding approaches are discussed.
In 1989, U.K. trade magazine Campaign named HHCL Agency of the Year for its work for Maxell Tapes that incorporated Desmond Decker's song "Israelites." In 1990, the agency helped launch the First Direct "no-counter banking" concept for Midland Bank and relaunched Fuji Film in the U.K.
In 1990, Britvic Soft Drinks tapped HHCL for its Tango brand. The agency developed a youthful approach for the brand's ads, with initial TV spots featuring a nearly naked, rotund man running up and slapping, or kissing, a man drinking Tango. HHCL drew criticism—and a ban by the Independent Television Commission, Britain's TV regulation agency—in 2000 for its spot for Britvic's Tango megaphone, a Tango-branded megaphone that customers could purchase for about $4.50. Almost 60,000 of the megaphones were sold, spurring concerns among the medical community and others about the potential for hearing loss resulting from "megaphoning."
In 1992, the agency won the Automobile Association account. The U.K. motoring organization's emergency repair service message was in need of repair itself, and the agency proposed a potentially radical approach: Position AA as the U.K.'s "fourth emergency service," along with the police, fire and ambulance services. AA membership in the U.K. grew from 7.5 million in 1992 to more than 10 million in 2001.
Another 1992 agency victory came from across the Atlantic when the agency won Canadian brewer Molson's introductory assignment for the U.K. launch of Molson Ex (Export) beer. In 2000, HHCL again provided a TV-focused ad campaign for Molson Ex in its home market.
In 1994, the agency decided to accept no more new business, taking on new assignments only from its existing clients and signaling a major change in the agency's focus. It changed its name to HHCL & Partners in October of that year and recruited 10 executives to provide direct-marketing capabilities.
In 1995, Martini joined the agency's client list and by the end of the year the agency introduced its "Beautiful People" campaign for Martini. Subsequent campaigns followed for new Martini-linked brands, including Metz, V2 and Citro. That same year, Campaign again named HHCL & Partners its Agency of the Year.
In 1997, Chime Communications, a marketing services group in which WPP Group held a minority, urchased HHCL, giving the shop access to the international resources of WPP.
$15 million ITV account
A year later, the agency celebrated a major coup when it captured the $15 million account of British independent TV network ITV. For ITV, HHCL developed a campaign focused on individual shows, including the long-running soap opera "Coronation Street" and the talent competition "Popstars." For the latter, a guerrilla marketing campaign revolved around the tagline, "Nigel, pick me," a play on the talent-spotting abilities of Nigel Lythgoe, a TV executive-turned-presenter and impresario who chose a few lucky individuals from thousands of entrants in a televised competition to create a new pop band.
In 1997, HHCL repositioned Bestfoods U.K.'s Pot Noodle as a youth snack with the "Spanking Gorgeous" campaign. Pot Noodle became U.K. teen-agers' second-favorite hot-food snack after McDonald's.
In 1999, HHCL signed 10 new clients, including Amazon.co.uk, Guinness Draught in a Bottle and British Airways London Eye. Rupert Howell, joint chief executive of Chime Group and chairman of HHCL, became the youngest-ever president of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising. Billings for the year ended September 1999 were up 85% from fiscal year 1998 to $270 million.
In January 2000, Campaign named HHCL its Agency of the Decade. Other HHCL projects included a multimillion-dollar 2001 campaign for The Studio, a film channel being launched by the cable TV company NTL and U.S.-based Universal Studios, and a campaign to promote Internet search engine Yahoo!
HHCL also created "The Yummies" cartoon characters as part of the delivery for the $4.5 million Ambrosia account. Other new clients included AITC investment trusts, Industry Standard Europe, Mars Inc.'s Topic chocolate brand, British retailer Littlewoods, U.K. refrigerated foods company St Ivel and Securicor e-solutions. Founding partner Adam Lury retired in 1998.
In 2001, HHCL launched Heresy, a new creative business consultancy. But 2001 was a difficult year for the agency, as it lost several major clients and laid off employees for the first time in its history. At the end of 2002, it was expected that WWP Group's Red Cell unit would acquire the troubled HHCL. WPP Group bought the agency in January 2003 and merged it with WPP's fourth network, Red Cell, to form HHCL Red Cell.