In August 1980, Tim Delaney and Ron Leagas founded Leagas Delaney in London. Early clients included Bass, ICI, Amex and United Biscuits, and by the end of its first year, the agency had $50 million in billings. Two years later, the shop claimed 12 clients and billings of $100 million.
Leagas Delaney experienced rapid growth, developing a reputation for producing award-winning campaigns, such as its work for the family vacation packages company Pontins, which won a Gold Lion at the Cannes International Advertising Festival.
Acquired by Abbott Mead Vickers
In 1986, the agency was acquired by London-based Abbott Mead Vickers. It was the first acquisition for AMV, which had only just gone public, and it was not without its problems. Mr. Leagas left the shop soon after and was succeeded as managing director by Bruce Haines, formerly client services director at AMV.
Although Mr. Leagas' departure proved difficult, the agency maintained its original name—in essence, protecting the brand. Leagas Delaney continued to operate within the Abbott Mead Vickers Group and greatly expanded its business base and reputation. By 1989, the company had returned to form and had added Harrods, Porsche and Timberland to its growing client list.
In 1982, Leagas Delaney began a major international expansion after it won the account of German sportswear marketer Adidas. In March 1986, Leagas Delaney opened an office in San Francisco, the first British agency in 30 years to set up shop in the U.S. without attaching itself to an existing agency. The result was positive and encouraged Leagas Delaney executives to consider expansion opportunities closer to home.
Using its links to Adidas's local marketing offices, Leagas Delaney embarked on a European expansion program, opened offices in Paris and Rome in October 1997 and in Hamburg in 2000.
At about the same time, the agency underwent a corporate restructuring. In April 1998, KPMG, which had acquired AMV, set up Leagas Delaney Group as a means to enable agency management to buy back their shop.
Nine months later, the agency converted its Paris office to a subsidiary and hired a team of French managers to run it. It also established a subsidiary in Duesseldorf, which moved to Hamburg in June 2000.
In May 1999, Leagas Delaney beat out three other contenders for the $15 million Barclays Bank account. Barclays wanted to change its fussy image and trumpet its growing prominence in international business. Leagas Delaney devised a cinema, TV and print campaign around the tagline, "A big world needs a big bank."
The agency also attracted attention with its $75 million, Italian TV campaign for Telecom Italia, Italy's No. 1 advertiser, that used Marlon Brando, Woody Allen and Nelson Mandela. The campaign ran in Italy in 2000 and 2001.
In November 2000, Envoy Communications Group, a Toronto company specializing in design, marketing and technology, made a bid for Leagas Delaney. The offer was never completed. The following month, Leagas Delaney was dropped as the lead agency for the British Broadcasting Corp., ending a five-year relationship.
In December 2001, Mr. Haines left the agency, which did not immediately appoint a successor. Shortly afterward, Adidas left the agency. Martin Sorrell's WPP Group was rumored to be in takeover talks for Leagas Delaney, but WPP denied that a deal was in the works.
In 2001, Leagas Delaney ranked No. 79 among the world's top 100 advertising organizations, down from No. 72 a year earlier. The shop had worldwide gross income of $30.2 million, down 22.7% over 2000, on billings of $223.0 million.
In 2003, Leagas Delaney withdrew from the U.S. market, where the agency had a San Francisco office.