September 28, 2021

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AMV BBDO boss Douglas quits storm-tossed agency

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Sarah Douglas has stepped down as CEO of AMV BBDO, for decades the UK’s biggest creative agency, after two years.

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The unfortunate Douglas (above) must have seen the axe looming – administered by choice or agency owners Omnicom we know not – for at least half that time.

The final straw was surely the ghastly Asda campaign it ran last year which united just about everyone in condemnation (it recently lost Asda) which showed a tin ear for consumers and also what advertising was supposed to be. AMV alas, in large part the creation of late creative founder David Abbott, has lost its bearings.

Douglas herself appears to be highly regarded and liked and handles the Essity account which has won numerous awards for ‘Viva la vulva’ and others.

But, as one rather more hard-bitten adland veteran remarked to me, “there’s more to running a successful agency than vaginas.” namely supporting and selling more for your big-spending clients and AMV has lost Camelot, BT, Walkers and now Asda in the past few years. In 2016 it lost mainstay Sainsbury’s.

Douglas says: “Having led AMV BBDO to two outstanding years creatively, I have decided after 20 years it is time for me to step down.

“I want to thank my clients for their partnership, trust and belief in the power of creativity and I want to thank everyone in the agency for all their love and support through the pandemic and for keeping on keeping on every day even in the most challenging of times.

“Together we have taken important steps towards driving greater diversity, equality and inclusion in everything we do and I know none of us will rest until it’s done.”

All fine and good but big agencies need to bring home the bacon for their big clients and, in AMV’s case, shareholders.

AMV was once known for its seamless management progression but, since Ian Pearman left hastily in 2017, this particular plot has been lost. Be intriguing to see who picks up the baton. London’s ad world isn’t exactly awash with obviously talented managers, in particular with the skills to turn round such a one-time super tanker.

Any such person has plenty of choices too: Grey and Ogilvy as well as AMV.

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