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CREATIVE ALL-STARS: BBDO PUTS "THE WORK" IN

Mark Tungate 2021-10-18
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Continuing our series of tributes to iconic networks, we take a look at BBDO's history and  winning entries. A diverse range of creativity that resonates with consumers.

BBDO is one of those names that has been part of advertising history for so long that many people don’t know what those four letters stand for. Barton, Batten, Durstine and Osbourne. The network can date its heritage back to 1891, when it was the plain old Batten Company – but it got its full name in 1928 when it merged with BDO.

BBDO – and particularly Bruce Barton – were keen to bring respectability to what they saw as the maverick world of advertising. That legacy lives on. In an interview with Epica a couple of years back, chairman and chief creative officer David Lubars commented: “We’re not here to pollute the culture...We’re here to sell great products in interesting ways.”

BBDO has a rigorous focus on quality. Not for nothing is its motto “The Work. The Work. The Work.” In this case, though, too much work does not make for a dull ad: in fact the network’s general ethos is to entertain, inform or enthral.

At one point this mostly equated to spectacular TV spots. But the digital era presented new opportunities, and what emerged was “work” of astonishing diversity.


We're not here to pollute the culture...but to sell great products in interesting ways.
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At the 2020 Epica Awards this range was most evident in a campaign for WWF that was as far from a TV spot as you can imagine. 

It involved teaming with scientists to officially name a newly discovered deep-sea species (a form of shrimp) Eurythenes Plasticus, after the plastic found in its body. 

Designed to sound an alarm about marine pollution, the operation covered paid social, OOH, digital OOH and cinema, but also reaped worldwide press coverage.

But that was by no means all.

The BBDO network's other winning entries included an IKEA instruction manual (see above, from Instinct, based in Moscow) on how to build “blanket forts”, to keep kids occupied during lockdown; a really annoying song that could only be turned off if Ukrainian taxi passengers fastened their seatbelts; a hair-raising campaign against child violence, featuring kids who bear their experiences as witness statements on their bodies; and even a hit record made with genuine birdsong (once again for WWF). 

A print campaign for Ford reminded drivers not to lose touch with the visceral in a world of data.

All of these examples have something in common – they resonate, purely and simply. Even though it’s one of the networks that allow us to argue that advertising can produce art, BBDO remains firmly in touch with its audience.



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