Two cents blog

20 Years of the Bits in Between

by Paul Cornwell on 5 June 2015

When I first started in advertising back in the early eighties, a wise old ad guy said to me that, “advertising is a business of incredible highs, incredible lows and not much in between”.

You win that exciting new account, launch that brilliant new campaign, hire that rising star, or pick up a big award and you are elated.  It’s euphoric.  You’re on top of the world.

But then, you lose an account because their business is acquired by a big multinational, and despite your great relationship and years of success together, they ‘align’ with their international agency. Worse yet, you can’t persuade a client to approve an idea which you just know has success written all over it, or much much, worse, you lose a brilliant long-term team member and friend to cancer.  And, you hit an all-time low.

So, when I woke up today on my twenty year anniversary at BCM, I couldn’t help but reflect on the past two decades at the agency.

On this day back in 1995, I started at what was then Knowles Bristow having returned from Hong Kong as McCann-Erickson’s Managing Director there.

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I joined Bill Bristow in his agency that had a solid reputation in retail, and a track record dating back to 1976.

From memory, there were 16 people, and Kevin Moreland was the Media Director.

We then set about building that small agency into a well-resourced, well-regarded mainstream communications agency, with a reputation for solid strategic thinking and creative work that delivered big results.  Our goal was to compete with our multinational competitor agencies and actually start winning business against them.

Bill, Kev and I then formed a new partnership, and BCM opened for business.

We went on to win some fantastic clients and bring some amazing talent on board to create work that we are very proud of to this day.

And the agency grew.

As such, we moved from South Brisbane to where we are today in Warner Street, Fortitude Valley.

We were fortunate enough to form partnerships with many new clients, and as a result, we grew consistently every year after that.

And now twenty years down the track, I paused this morning to ponder the advice from that old ad guy, and I’ve decided that I don’t agree with him.

Yes, there are highs and lows. No doubt about it.   And this is how most agencies roll.

Win a big account and a huge party ensues.  Lots of new staff are hired very quickly. Morale peaks.

Corny @ Agency Mexican lunch_161111

Lose a big account and the agency morale goes through the floor as a result of significant redundancies.

This roller coaster of fortunes seems to be standard modus operandi for most agencies.

But, what we’ve managed to achieve over the past twenty years is an agency that celebrates and revels in a more measured and thoughtful approach to growth and success.

And we realised along the way that it’s the in between bit that’s the good bit!

Make no mistake, we love a good new business win like any agency. But what we love more is building really long-term relationships with our clients.  Relationships that are built on mutual respect, shared goals, and of course, brilliant results. We are so proud of the many long-term clients we have on board at BCM.

We also enjoy bringing in fresh new talent like other agencies; but Kev and I count our blessings every day when we think about the number of people at BCM who’ve been with us for so long.

We also get pretty damn excited about winning awards like BADC Best of Show, IAB’s, AIMIA’s or B& T Agency of the Year. But what is really satisfying is creating incredibly powerful long-term brand ideas for our clients, many of which are still building brand equity ten plus years down the track.

It’s this consistency and focus that sets us apart and drives our ongoing business growth.

In an industry full of big talking start-ups and short lived successes, we believe we stand out for this reason.

So, at the twenty year mark, I want to stop and thank our amazing team, our wonderful clients, and our industry partners for everything you’ve done to make our agency what it is today.

It’s been a fantastic journey full of laughs, successes, tough challenges, perspiration, inspiration, anticipation, head scratching, let downs, awards, joys and big accomplishments. Very big accomplishments.

To my business partner of twenty years, I say kudos to you, Kev.  I’ve been very, very fortunate to have such a clever, resourceful and hard working partner.  Your Jedi mind tricks are also very cool too.


To our team, I say thanks.  Thanks for your loyalty, your dedication, your smarts, your good humour and your care factor.  BCM is what it is because of you guys.

As for the next twenty years, who knows what it will hold.  I can only imagine.

No doubt there’ll be more highs and more lows.

But for me, I’m looking forward to the bits in between.  That’s where the really good stuff is.


Paul Cornwell is a Managing Director at BCM

- Gem Boucher on June 10

What a great post! Congrats Paul and Kev on 20 years

- TA on June 10

Congratulations Corny, crikey, where did that time go?? Plenty of memories in those words, and I'm fortunate to have had the opportunity to share a large chunck of it with you.

- Michele Prescott on June 9

And those stories from Garnsey Clemenger days, when you were a junior suit and I was a co-ordinator, will remain with me ... for now! Congratulations.

- Jo Stone on June 8

Congratulations Paul on your amazing achievements over the past 20 years. You always had a clear vision of the great agency that BCM would go on to become, and you inspired the rest of us along the way. Here's to more high than lows (and enjoyment of the bits in between), and many more successes to come.

- David Gow on June 6

Hi Paul , Congratulaions, 20 years it seems like yesterday , your return from HK ,the beginning of a new agency , and ongoing friendship.. Thank you for your support and understanding over the years , stay safe , talk soon and now we can compare farm notes . David

- Gillian Tucker on June 5

Congratulations Corny. Magnificent innings. Nice to have shared most of it with you.

- Jenine on June 5

Great Blog

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