in conversation with British advertising legends

Martin Boase

Born 1932, Sheffield

Martin’s early days were characterised by change – he described himself as a ‘problem child’ and attended 14 different schools before going to the University of Oxford to study languages. Following his degree, he realised there was no career for him following his passion for the theatre, and he commenced a graduate trainee role with the London Press Exchange and then worked for two years at Robert Sharp & Partners agency.

In 1961, he took a job as Account Manager at London ad agency Pritchard Wood making it to Managing Director just five years later. Financial difficulty at the firm led to Martin and nine fellow directors walking out to form their own agency: Boase Massimi Pollitt in 1968. It was hailed as ‘the biggest breakaway either side of the Atlantic’. They pulled in Cadbury’s as their first client, leading to the memorable instant potato campaign; John Webster’s ‘For mash get Smash’. Other campaigns included Volkswagen, John Smith’s, Hoffmeister, PG Tips and the GLC. BMP’s Stanley Pollitt was one of the first agencies behind the new ‘Account Planning’ approach (based on qualitative research, to ensure that the advertising was engaging and was also meeting the rational brief of what it was meant to do).

From 1989 to 1995, Martin served as chairman of Omnicom (following their $187.5 million takeover of BMP) and has held various directorships with the British Television Advertising Awards.

Martin says, “I think we did pioneer a new way of producing advertisements. We were lucky enough to have some very talented people working with us, but we were not entirely there simply to make money.  We were there for a craft reason as well: That was important and that is the modest legacy we have.