Jeremy Lee on Advertising: What is to be made of Heinz appointing BBH?

The former Campaign deputy editor Jeremy Lee gives us the inside track on the stories that have got the ad industry talking.

It’s difficult to know what to make of Bartle Bogle Hegarty’s victory in the pan-European pitch for the Heinz advertising account.

Obviously credit is due to the team in securing the business – and the creative opportunities that will (hopefully) come along with it – but the shine must be a little bit diminished by the way that Heinz held the review, which led to so many other agencies either withdrawing from the process or deciding not to pitch at all. Nonetheless, BBH isn’t the sort of agency that would pitch for an account unless there was profit in it, and it must presumably have found a way to swallow the 97-day payment terms and the decoupling of production from the ad agency.

As a boost to an agency that by the admission of its sparky managing director Mel Exon had spent 2014 “in the garage”, it’s not quite on the same scale as its stunning Tesco win at the beginning of the year. But at least it shows that the tinkering had been worth it and it mitigates the severance of its relationships with Diageo, Tango and most inexplicably of all Barnado’s, for which it produced some of the most striking and memorable campaigns in the sector.

While the Heinz pitch is in danger of being remembered for all the wrong reasons – including a ludicrous e-auction process – hopefully the warm words between Heinz’s VP marketing Giles Jepson and the BBH chief executive Ben Fennell about their mutual chemistry will translate into some powerful advertising to prove the naysayers wrong.

Having had another quiet Cannes – traditionally a happy hunting ground for the shop – some evidence that BBH is back on its game creatively, would also show that those hours Exon and her team spent in their overalls was worth it. It would also help Heinz rehabilitate its reputation – and show that it wasn’t as beholden to procurement at the expense of creativity as it made out.

It’s easy to snipe at clients and their ability to dull, thwart or even strangle the creative process – God knows there are enough examples of it – but there are also a few instances where they should be celebrated. A good example of this is Harvey Nichols.

It’s probably fair to say that hearts over at Adam&Eve/DDB didn’t leap when the agency got a brief asking it to come up with a loyalty scheme for the upmarket shop.

After all, every retailer has a loyalty scheme these days and cutting through is consequently more difficult than ever. Equally, loyalty is an area where creativity is disappointingly traditionally absent.

But then the agency has never been one to shirk from a challenge and similarly it was also blessed in having a client – Shadi Halliwell – who likes the unconventional. While she is famous for convincing her colleagues at O2 to introduce VCCP’s brilliant “be more dog” campaign when she was its head of brand (for which perhaps she never got the credit she deserved), she is perhaps equally well-known for launching her own range of sex toys under the ‘Shy’ brand – something she described as the “Prada of sex toys”.

A&E/DDB’s solution was the triumphal “shoplifters” spot, which uses real CCTV footage of criminals, but with animated faces, trying to make off with goods from its Knightsbridge store.

It’s one of the best pieces of advertising to emerge from the UK all year and adds to an impressive body of work that cleaned up at Cannes last year. Even among the bitchy creative community, it’s difficult to findsomeone with a bad word to say about it. All credit then to A&E/DDB for coming up with such a brutally and beautifully simple solution to a mundane problem. And equally, Halliwell’s refusal to be ‘shy’ herself shows that fortune really does favour the bold.

Jeremy Lee's column will appear on thedrum.com monthly. Until the next one, you can follow Jeremy on Twitter @jezzalee

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