There are many measures of success in adland: new business performance, client loyalty, creative awards, sex appeal. Bartle Bogle Hegarty scores highly on all counts. But the main reason BBH is Marketing's Creative Agency of the Year for 2003 is because it has turned out consistently excellent advertising. Not only were its ads clever, entertaining and salient, they really helped its clients sell stuff.
The agency's TV commercial for Lynx Pulse, featuring a geeky but cool dancer in a bar, was a prime example. The soundtrack topped the charts for four weeks, and the ad was one of the most written about, and talked about, of the year.
Crucially, it scored phenomenal recall among Lynx's target audience of 16- to 24-year-olds. The truly integrated campaign also proved BBH could successfully collaborate with new media and PR agencies on behalf of its client.
Lever Faberge says Pulse is now the leading variant in the market; sales of the little cans are 82% higher than 2002's new variant at the same point in the year; and Lynx has its highest share of the European deodorant market since 1991.
Unlike Lynx, KFC was a struggling brand in a declining market. But BBH's 'Soul Food' campaign, featuring beautifully shot commercials with distinctive soundtracks, reversed that. Brand recognition shot up in the aftermath and KFC grew sales by 2%, with a 0.5% increase in market share since the campaign began.
Indeed, the KFC creative - along with early work for £25m win Woolworths - demonstrated that BBH, long renowned for its FMCG brand-building, is more than capable of repeating such outstanding results for retail clients.
In yet another sector, BBH's 'Fluent in finance' campaign for Barclays, featuring Samuel L Jackson, helped the bank take the lead in share of new customers in the 12 months to July 2003, gaining 1.1% of new accounts.
It also topped the table in new savings accounts, with a 5% volume share over the same period.
Elsewhere, Diageo continues to love the cinematic Johnny Walker 'Keep Walking' campaign and is now running it in 120 markets; Audi reports double-digit sales increase of the A4 model since BBH's haunting 'fish' ads; and the typically surreal Levi's campaign ('a bold new breed') helped the featured Type 1 jeans range grab a 15% slice of the denim company's sales.
Watch BBH's reel, and its astute use of sound becomes immediately apparent.
For years, the agency's Levi's ads have created number one hits, but now the agency is taking this skill further.
In April it opened Leap, the first music publishing and licensing company from an advertising agency. Meanwhile, former board account director Simon Binns has linked up with Gordon Biggins, a former general manager at EMI Chrysalis, to spin off Affinity Music, a company that actively seeks to marry brands and musical artists.
On the new business front, BBH's wins included the £6m accounts for Barclaycard and Robinsons, the £40m Baileys brief from Diageo and, more recently, the £100m pan-European SCA Hygiene Libresse sanpro business.
At the time of going to press, BBH London had taken a total of £245m in new business this year, winning 11 of 18 pitches in which it competed; 60% of business gains came from existing clients.
Wisely, the agency also has one eye on the future. At a time when the traditional ad break looks under growing threat, BBH has invested heavily in the area of branded content.
It hired Mark Boyd as director of content to manage the 24 live content projects under way for clients, and it was one of the first advertising agencies to exhibit at Mipcom, the major TV industry programming fair, this year.
BBH is under no illusion as to where its main assets lie. The average length of service of its 12 most senior managers is 11 years, which has enabled it to withstand the departure of two senior managers this year.
They were planning director Dylan Williams and new business director Nicola Mendelsohn, both of whom joined Garry Lace's resurgent Grey London.
Although chief executive Nigel Bogle and chairman John Hegarty remain hugely influential, the next generation of managers, including executive creative director John O'Keefe, deputy chairman Jim Carroll and managing director Gwyn Jones, continue to grow in stature.
BBH's unrivalled consistency of performance is demonstrated by the fact that it was Marketing's Agency of the Year in 2001 and a serious contender last year, at that time overshadowed by the unstoppable Mother.
The Gunn Report 2003 highlighted that BBH London was one of the top five most-awarded agencies in the world. Intermediaries cite it as the outstanding performer of 2003.
However, for the real evidence as to why BBH, in its 21st anniversary year, is once again Marketing's Agency of the Year, it is best to consult those who know best: its clients.
Daniel Rogers is associate editor at Marketing. 020 8267 4048, email@example.com.