Credit Where it’s Due: Biggsy – charming, clever and tough

Biggsy-234x350In a regular new feature in which Mumbrella recognises the best people and work in the industry, Credit Where It’s Due begins by saluting Peter Biggs, the talented and charismatic Kiwi who helped turn Clemenger BBDO Melbourne into Australia’s best creative agency.     

In a competitive industry, it’s hard to find an agency boss that nobody has a bad word to say about. Even harder when that includes rivals that his agency keeps beating.

So the departure of Peter Biggs back to New Zealand is a big moment for the Australian market. Biggs, a thoroughly decent individual, has been a leader not just within the agency, but in the wider agency world.

Given that the industry needs a little positivity, we’ve been planning to launch this new series Credit Where It’s Due for a few weeks now. And there is nobody in the industry who deserves that credit more than Peter Biggs.

On the two occasions that Mumbrella has surveyed its own readership and indeed the industry experts for our Creative Agency Review book, the agency has been scored the best agency in the country. It was top for effectiveness, account management, planning, commercial success and client stability, and close to the top on every other criteria.

And in his eight years at the helm, the agency has of course been recognised as Creative Agency of the Year in the Mumbrella Awards, Campaign Brief’s awards, The Effies and many others.

creditLogoFNlBiggsy, as the natural leader he is, would no doubt point to the strength-in-depth of the agency’s entire executive team. And it’s certainly true that creative chairman James McGrath and ECD Ant Keogh are both world class. But there are many agencies with world class creatives that don’t succeed commercially.

In Melbourne, Biggs was everywhere it counts, in many subtle ways. Turning up matters. And if ever a client was speaking at a public event, you’d find Biggsy supporting them in the audience. It sounds obvious – but that’s the reality of account management and something many agencies fail to do.

Every now and then, Biggs would disagree with something Mumbrella had written about his agency, and he wouldn’t be afraid to let us know – so don’t mistake his charm for lack of toughness; we’ve experienced his displeasure at first hand. But no matter what, we’ve always respected him as one of the agency world’s ethical heavyweights.

When we’ve sat in on the Clems’ Agency of the Year presentations, Biggs has projected a balance of hunger-to-win, but also humility. Even when it’s been head-and-shoulders above its rivals, Clems has never come across as an arrogant agency.

Peter Biggs is also a thoroughly intriguing character. As a profile of him in B&T back in 2008 put it:

“He once trained as a Catholic priest, has a key to the city of Wellington and his biggest break came during a conversation at the urinal of an Italian restaurant.”

And Biggs is one of the few agency bosses who seems to enjoy diverting the conversation over lunch to great literature, or classical music. Long term industry watcher Gawen Rudder accurately decribed him yesterday as “a true renaissance man”.

No doubt his rivals will be a little relieved that Biggs is retiring from that battlefield in Melbourne.

As Sean Cummins put it yesterday:

To see a great practitioner and in the nicest way I say this – a combatant – leave the industry makes me feel a little lost. A more charming, erudite and sophisticated man I can’t remember meeting. Holmes needed Moriarty. Salieri needed Mozart. And anyone who wanted to be any good needed Biggs. I enjoyed knowing you were there.
Age quod agis.”

Now in his mid-50s, we hope that the description of Biggsy’s departure as “retiring” to New Zealand is an inaccurate one. Undoubtedly, like many of the senior Clemenger Group’s staff, the sale to Omnicom back in 2011 means he doesn’t need to work. But it would be a huge loss to the industry if that proved to be the case.

We hope – and believe – Biggsy will be back once his non-compete clauses have expired.

He’s too good to lose from the industry. We’re confident we’ll see him return.

Credit Where it’s Due will be a regular feature in which Mumbrella celebrates the best of the industry – including individuals, organisations or work. We welcome topics suggestions and guest postings via alex@focalattractions.com.au.

Credit Where it’s Due is all about generating positivity about our fantastic industry. While we welcome positive and constructive comments, anonymous or otherwise, this feature a snark-free zone so please bear that in mind when commenting.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.