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BMB’s 'next generation' of management respond to The Drum on the meaning of founder DNA

For Beattie McGuinness Bungay, this year has seen Cheil, the South Korean advertising giant, move from holding a minority to a majority stake in the London agency. At the same time, BMB announced its “next generation” of management; planner Neal Fairfield, executive creative director Matt Waller, and a yet-to-be-appointed CEO.

Fairfield joined the agency in August from Saatchi & Saatchi, where he was international planning director. Meanwhile Waller, former Grey London and BBH creative director, has only been leading the agency's 16-strong creative department for a matter of weeks.

Together, these three have taken over the day-to-day runnings of an agency which, over the past seven years, has produced work for the likes of Carling, McCain and Pretty Polly.

However, much has been said on the move with many, including The Drum columnist Barry Dudley, questioning what will happen to the agency as its ambitious founders take a back seat.

The Drum caught up with Fairfield and Waller as they respond to Dudley's comments and discuss their thoughts on Cheil, founder DNA and what the future holds for BMB.

The pair began by clarifying the status of the agency in regards to Cheil.

“We work with Cheil as and when we need to and they are an exceptionally good organisation to be part of,” comments Fairfield, who explains that the company respects the independent nature of the agency, alongside its spirit and culture. As a result of this relationship, BMB has worked alongside the Barbarian Group in New York and Bravo, which is seen as its Chinese equivalent, employing 1,800 people," said Fairfield.

“I don’t think any other agency in London of our size could say they’ve got such a large network in China should we wish to go and do work there," he continued. "So it is exceptionally liberating to be able to pull so many different talents from across the world when needed."

Fairfield and Waller were also quick to address the suggestion that between their appointments and Cheil’s increased stake, the integrity and guts the BMB founders instilled in the agency will somehow be lost.

“BMB is very much BMB. And if you’ve ever met any of the founders it is their agency,” said Fairfield. “I think the main thing that myself and Matt are allowing them to do is actually get back to what they love doing, which is feeling like the founders again and working for together for the best of our client’s businesses,” he said, with Waller adding that the DNA of BMB is always going to stay the same.

“There is no reason to start pushing on their boundaries,” continued Waller. “In fact, the reverse is happening, they want to find out how we work and for us to share with them how they should do it. I’ve said to Trevor that I’m going to be in his office asking questions every five minutes. They’re the perfect godfathers.”

As of yet there is no update on the appointment of a CEO, the third pillar in this management trio, but in the meantime there is some “exciting” work to be expected.

“There’s a new Thomson’s ad that is in production at the moment. I know Trevor’s really excited about that,” said Waller. “In his own words he is ‘all over it like a cheap suit’. We’re off to a flyer really.”

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