Madcap Adman Trevor Beattie Bails Out to Start His Own Nontraditional Shop

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Who: Trevor Beattie, founder of Beattie McGuinness Bungay.

Why you need to know him: Mr. Beattie, one of the U.K.'s high-profile admen, was chairman and creative director of Omnicom Group's TBWA, London, before quitting the agency in May to start his own shop, Beattie McGuinness Bungay, which is focused on developing nontraditional advertising concepts and branded entertainment.

Top British adman Trevor Beattie has opened an agency to develop nontraditional and branded-entertainment ad concepts.

Despite Trevor Beattie's success while at TBWA with "conventional" advertising, like the Cannes Grand Prix award-winning “Mountain” spot for Sony PlayStation 2, he has been enthusiastically exploring the world beyond the 30-second commercial, and this exploration has led to his decision to leave Omnicom Group's TBWA, London, where he worked for 15 years, and set up his own shop.

Together with his art director, Bill Bungay, and his chief executive, Andrew McGuinness, Mr. Beattie formed Beattie McGuinnes Bungay, and the agency has already pulled in three accounts: French Connection U.K., a client from TBWA; Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic; and News Corp’s Sky News.

The agency founders are keen to stress that “advertising is at the heart of what we do” -– after all, it would be foolish to frighten off potential clients with anything too unconventional. But at the same time, Mr. Beattie is determined to continue looking at new ways to reach the consumer.

'More than advertising'

“For the last five years we’ve been doing more than advertising, anyway,” Mr. Beattie said. Mr. McGuinness, whose quiet demeanor allows Mr. Beattie to maintain his customary place in the limelight, added, “Chief executives only want to know if the marketing has sold stuff. They see it all as advertising, anyway.”

The outspoken Mr. Beattie is probably the U.K.’s best-known ad man, and, although in his late 40s, is still known as the enfant terrible of British advertising, thanks to his passion, his youthful appearance and his glossy black ringlets. He prides himself on the number of mentions he can give his clients every time he appears on TV.

Mr. Beattie is best known to the British public for “Hello Boys” -– a groundbreaking campaign for Gossard Wonderbra -– and for his work on the advertising campaigns behind three consecutive general election victories for Tony Blair’s Labour Party. Not to mention his controversial yet commercially successful outdoor advertising work for French Connection U.K., which goes by its initials, FCUK.

Small budget was inspiration

FCUK’s small budget was the original inspiration for Mr. Beattie’s foray into nontraditional media. “FCUK money works hard,” he said, with feeling.

One of his early projects brought FCUK together with one of Mr. Beattie’s boxing idols, Lennox Lewis. For a heavyweight title fight against Evander Holyfield in March 1999, Mr. Beattie invented the slogan “FCUK Fear.” Mr. Lewis wore a skullcap, t-shirt and shorts with the slogan, as did an army of fans in the audience for the fight. The fight was a draw, so the rematch later that year meant even more exposure for FCUK. Fans still wear those t-shirts. “Is it advertising or sponsorship or branded content?” Mr. Beattie asked. “It’s just what we’ve always done but we never gave it a trendy name.”

Also for FCUK, Mr. Beattie invented FCUK FM, a radio station that was broadcast on digital TV and the Internet as well as in French Connection stores on both sides of the Atlantic. FCUK FM was so successful that it beat the BBC and commercial rivals to win two top prizes at Britain’s most prestigious radio awards ceremony, the Sonys.

“We just did it for one season but now we’re looking at turning it into a real station. My job is to have the idea and then bring in the experts. It’s the way I like to work,” he said.

Hollywood connection

Mr. Beattie has a canny knack of combining his professional life with his personal interests. In addition to boxing and music, he loves film and the glamour of Hollywood, so it’s no surprise that he has involved director Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake), who's also the husband of supermodel Claudia Schiffer, in his new agency.

“He will be bringing us screenplays to look at and give advice on,” Mr. Beattie said of Mr. Vaughn.

Mr. Beattie is also enthusiastic about space travel, so naturally he counts Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic among BMB’s clients. The passenger space shuttle, which is due to launch in 2007 and will charge around $200,000 per person for 20 minutes in space, is another mine of potential branding opportunities that will need careful management.

Despite having had 42 clients to service at TBWA, Mr. Beattie found time to help launch a girl band and stage a West End theatrical production, “Immodesty Blaize and Walter’s Burlesque.”

Plugging ads into a theatrical production

The theatrical experience gave him ideas for future productions. “You could put music from a commercial into a show and then sell the products in the foyer at the interval,” he enthuses. “A big agency isn’t nimble enough to do it, but I’ve broken ground and people are queuing up for my input.”

His passionate stance and outspoken views set Mr. Beattie apart from the rest of the U.K. advertising industry. He enjoys playing the outlaw, and wants his agency to be a "small team of banditos” made up of “creative people who’ll work hard for clients and don’t [B.S.].”

Once he has assembled his team, his ambitions for BMB are straightforward: “We want a small group of clients to whom we are personally dedicated and with whom we have lots of fun. We want to win no awards. And we want to rattle a few cages.”
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