HHCL (formally Howell Henry Chaldecott Lury and Partners) was an advertising agency based in London, and was prominent in the 1990s. The agency was famous for its work on Tango, creating the famous Orange Man (also known as Slap) commercial in 1991 as well as the commercial, St George, for Blackcurrant Tango in 1997. In 1994 it created the Does exactly what it says on the tin campaign for Ronseal. The firm won fame (and notoriety) for its innovative working practices, and was voted 'Agency of the Decade' by Campaign magazine in 2000. After mergers and a name change to United London, the agency was closed in early 2007.
Howell Henry Chaldecott Lury & Partners was founded by Rupert Howell, Steve Henry, Axel Chaldecott, Adam Lury and Robin Price and launched on October 17, 1987.
In 1994 the agency became the first to offer both above and below the line advertising as well as PR, an initiative labelled 3D Marketing. HHCL was bought by Chime PLC in October 1997 and merged into the Red Cell Network in January 2002. The HHCL initials were dropped and the agency become United London in January 2006 before being closed down by its owner WPP Group in early 2007.
HHCL believed that the quality of a company’s communications could lead to a real competitive advantage and produced a book written by Adam Lury: Marketing at a Point of Change which expounded this view.
HHCL prided themselves on being professional radicals—a positioning later applied to the agency as a whole.
How the agency worked
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The company organised itself around project teams, making teams of account director, strategic planner and creatives collectively responsible for creating work. Early on in the process, clients were invited to 'tissue meetings' during which a range of early ideas were discussed.
The multiple route approach carried on through to creative development research. These were research groups carried out by the project team’s strategic planner and which were used to develop the work further.
Working this way, very few projects had to go back to the drawing board and resulted in the agency having sector beating margins of over 25% over a number of years.
The agency embraced the idea of hot desking so that employees of various disciplines sat with each other.
The offices were designed to be open and vibrant, intended to be more like a newsroom than an ad agency and new work and new policies were showcased in the agency's own in house TV show, The Howell Henry Show.
HHCL was responsible for a number of firsts in the UK advertising industry. As a major ad agency, they were the first to offer above the line, below the line and PR. They were online by 1993 and were the first to give mobile phones to their staff in 1994. They were the first to embrace hot desking and the first to use project teams to create work. They were the first to create an in house TV Show and employ a futurologist and a Shaman.
The agency also created several advertising firsts. They were the first to run two different ads concurrently on different channels, for First Direct in 1989. They were the first to advertise on the back of Tube tickets, for Mercury Communications in 1992. They were the first to create a TV ad that viewers needed to record and play back slowly, for Mazda in 1994. They were the first to place a web address on a commercial, for Tango in 1994 and they revolutionised sponsorship idents by using dialogue and live action for the first time for Tango's sponsorship of The Word in 1994.
HHCL's most famous work
In 1989, HHCL launched the banking service, First Direct. Alongside the two commercials that aired simultaneously on ITV and Channel 4, one offering an optimistic and the other a pessimistic view, the agency created a number of short, surreal spots in which the visual had little or nothing to do with the message. It was these ads that gave HHCL its reputation for being avant garde.
The agency also bucked the trend of only showing beautiful people in advertising with a campaign for Fuji. Using the line 'with the right camera and the right film, you can change the way people see the world' the ads showed a man with Down syndrome smiling at the checkout girl in a supermarket and an old couple kissing.
HHCL's most celebrated piece of work was a commercial for Tango in 1991 (co-written by Trevor Robinson OBE). The ad took soft drinks advertising away from US lifestyle and planted it firmly on the streets of Britain. When a young man drinks some Tango, a large orange man runs up to him and slaps him on the face - the 'hit of real oranges' - while two astounded commentators report on the action. The commercial was voted the third best commercial of all time by Channel 4 in the UK. After children began copying the orange man's slap, the commercial was banned and reshot with the orange man planting a kiss on the Tango drinker.
In 1994 the agency rebranded the UK's vehicle breakdown service The Automobile Association as The Fourth Emergency Service and was responsible for the endline 'It does exactly what it says on the tin' for Ronseal.
Sometimes, the brand had been known to create adverts which sparked controversy and become banned. Early Tango Orange adverts were banned in the original run of the "You Know When You've Been Tango'd" campaign from 1992–1996, including those of the "orange man", "exploding pensioner" and "head" adverts, banned because they were copied by children who injured themselves, for offending pensioners, and for scaring children respectively. Another Tango Orange advert in 2000 was banned almost instantly as it appears in the adverts as if some elderly people are bullying a young man (James Corden) for not drinking Tango. In 2004, the Tango advert Pipes was banned for fear of imitation, in the same vein as the "orange man" advert. Though numerous Tango adverts have been controversial, HHCL's other controversial advertising campaign was that of the "Pot Noodle Horn" in 2005, where the first advert in the campaign was banned for being overtly sexual. Additionally, a 2002 advertising campaign for Pot Noodle saw the brand call itself "the slag of all snacks", which prompted 310 complaints. The advertisement was banned.
- http://www.framestore-cfc.com/#/Commercials%20London/BlackcurrantTango,StGeorge 'St. George'
- Undated interview with Rupert Howell http://floti.bell.ac.uk/Advertising/dont_hire_them.htm
- Campaign magazine Agency of the Decade award announcement on Brand Republic website (registration required) http://www.brandrepublic.com/login/News/35096/
- Campaign magazine article Close-Up: Live Issue - From historic to history: so long, United London archived on Brand Republic website (registration required) http://www.brandrepublic.com/login/Research/650619/
- Article Chime bedfellows anticipate a prosperous union in Campaign magazine 7 November 1997 http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_0286-5565085_ITM
- Article Red Cell chief to head new agency as HHCL merger is finalised on mad.co.uk news site http://www.mad.co.uk/Main/Home/Articles/f4b83d556de6478cb0a09cfa7009c65d/Red-Cell-chief-to-head-new-agency-as-HHCL-merger-is-finalised.html
- A scanned copy of Adam's book has been made available online by Gareth Kay at http://garethkay.typepad.com/brand_new/files/Marketing_at_a_point_of_change.pdf
- The Anatomy of Account Planning - The Creativity behind Creativity by Henrik Habberstad, available in MSWord format at http://farisyakob.typepad.com/blog/files/the_anatomy_of_account_planning.doc.
- Maxell Israelites advert - YouTube
- Tango commercial - Orange Man - YouTube
- Programmes - Most Popular - All 4
- Ronseal Advert - YouTube
- Go Airlines - YouTube
- Bernice Kanner, 100 Best TV Commercials: And Why They Worked(Times Books, 1999)