Anil Thakraney: BBH must remain the black sheep

09 Jul,2012

By Anil Thakraney


So, Sir John Hegarty has sold out his cult hot shop to the Publicis Group. The latter already owned a substantial stake in BBH, but now it’s a complete buy-out. How this acquisition will impact the future of BBH, only time will tell. It will all depend on how the new parent handles the adopted baby.


BBH definitely gains from the acquisition in terms of financial muscle power. The ’boutique’ agency will now have a lot more moolah in its kitty to play around with. So that’s the good news. The bad news however is the agency has lost its independence. How much ever Publicis claims they will leave BBH alone to carve its own future, the ground reality is that as people change, as leadership changes, and as egos clash, this reassurance can change too. When push comes to shove, the ultimate power lies with the man who signs the pay cheque. That’s the new reality BBH now wakes up to.


There’s another, larger issue to worry about: Sir John Hegarty and his partners will have run into serious personal money with this acquisition. Good for them, and they do deserve every penny of it. But it’s also a fact that Hegarty isn’t getting any younger, and BBH could come under a cloud when he retires to his farmhouse. Which is likely to happen pretty soon, within the next two years to be precise. As long as the Big Man is around, the Publicis suits will resist the temptation to interfere. Once he’s gone, it’s anybody’s guess how things will pan out. Suffice to say this: BBH, in its new avatar, won’t find it as easy to attract hot creative talent as it did till yesterday. It’s a pucca family member now.


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Publicis’s best bet is to allow BBH to maintain Hegarty’s famed ideology, even after Hegarty walks into the sunset: ‘When the world zigs, zag.’ They poke their neck into this and try to tweak it; BBH will immediately lose its magic and turn into just another ad agency. And that would be a pity.


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PS: Heineken’s new ad. It’s a simple idea: ‘The perfect beer calls for the perfect bar.’ But the magic has been created by the art director and the production designer. A good example of how superb art direction can really lift a film. I feel like a Heineken already!



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