In the Spotlight - BBH

With Alex Grieve, Global Chief Creative Officer, BBH

23 February 2023

John Bartle, Nigel Bogle & John Hegarty are blazing lights in advertising history, three wise kings who have collectively cast a long shadow since launching BBH in 1982 with a Levi’s spot that came with the strap-line ‘when the world zigs, zag’. As the agency enters its fifth decade, it’s still zagging through the culture as part of the Publicis Groupe with offices in London, New York, Singapore, Shanghai, Mumbai, LA and Stockholm and more than 1,000 staff worldwide, applying the zag of BBH thinking, care, craft and magic across all its brand conversations, communications, experiences, relationships and transformations. GCCO Alex Grieve, who started out at BBH back in 1996, returned to the fold last summer after his 12-year journey as ECD then CCO at AMV BBDO and here looks at the year behind, and the year ahead.

So, Alex, how has the past year been for you?

Highs and lows. Exciting and dull. Triumphant and depressing. Exhausting and energising. The trick is to try and stay calm and not get too down when you're down or too up when you're up.

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Alex Grieve, Global Chief Creative Officer, BBH

What's the big takeaway you'd carry over into 2023?

I prefer a home-cooked meal. I'd like us all to have a bit more fun. Do that and the work will follow.

What’s the best idea you had in 2022 and how did it work out?

I was very proud of the Tesco Voice of Checkout TikTok idea. It truly masters the medium. And I thought the Ode to Dads work for Prostate Cancer UK was both very funny and very moving. That's very hard to do.

What were the creative innovations that excited you in 2022?

AI moving into the mainstream.

How has creativity evolved and responded to the real-world challenges of 2022?

I'm not sure it responded as well as it could have. It needed to be more helpful, more empathetic, but also do the simple more often. Put a smile on people's faces, make them laugh; make them feel better.

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Will remote and hybrid ways of working continue to be the industry norm?

Yes. And in many ways and for many people that's a good thing. Presentism kills creativity. But it's important, I believe, that we also point out the benefits of working face-to-face in an office because working together does make the work better. Our responsibility is to make sure the office is a fun, inspiring, kind place to be. Build that and they will come.

Best Campaign of the Year?

The Last Photo for the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM). It hits you in the heart and the head. It's the Muhammad Ali of a campaign.

Which Christmas campaign in 2022 won you over?

Tesco Christmas Party, of course. I also thought the National Lottery Christmas Love Story was beautifully put together.

Biggest surprise of 2022?

The enduring popularity of smashed avocados on toast.

What trends do you see emerging?

More comedy, less purpose.

What do the British Arrows mean to you?

It's always been my favourite show. It's the value the Arrows places not just on idea but craft. It's always brilliantly run, nearly always picks the right winners and is a great night out. Why wouldn't BBH want to sponsor that?

What do you think will win commercial of the year?

I think as this year's Jury Chair I shall plead the 5th Amendment. But I have an idea.

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