Cilla Snowball

Group Chairman and Group Chief Exec at AMV BBDO




Career to date:

2012 - Advertising (Association Chairman)
2006 - AMV BBDO (Group CEO, Group Chairman) 
2004 - AMV BBDO (Chairman)
2002 - AMV BBDO (CEO)
1992 - AMV BBDO (New Business Director) 
1983 - Ogilvy (Account Manager) 
1981 - ABM (Graduate Trainee)


Creativebrief: As Group Chairman and Group Chief Exec at AMVBBDO what is your primary focus?

Cilla Snowball: My primary focus is the “work, the work, the work”, just like it is for everyone who works for BBDO. Our creative work is at the heart of our business. My job is to make sure that it’s in the hands of the best talent across the AMV Group, servicing the best clients brilliantly whilst growing our business innovatively and consistently.

Creativebrief: Please share a para on your career to date – specifically talking us through the high points.

Cilla Snowball: I started in advertising in account management in the 80s as a graduate trainee, learning the ropes on chunky business from great people. One of those was Michael Baulk who hired me at AMVBBDO in 1992 and with whom I’d worked with at Ogilvy.

37 years ago David Abbott, Peter Mead and Adrian Vickers created a wonderful agency in AMVBBDO. Our privilege has been to continue to run and develop it, both as an advertising agency and a communications group. I’ve been here 22 years and we’ve been Number One agency for 17 of those.

It was a high point getting to Number One but as anyone in the agency will tell you, it takes a lot of hard work to stay there.

Magazine ad for Sainsburys by AMV in the early 1980s

Creativebrief: What’s unique about your agency / business? Why did you join AMVBBDO?

Cilla Snowball: I’d always wanted to work at AMV, even as a graduate. I loved the classic quality press work in double page spreads that AMV was creating for Sainsbury’s in the early 80s.

It was so fresh and innovative at the time and the work literally attracted me to the place.

I think the quality of work we have produced for big, long-standing clients like Sainsbury’s, BT, GuinnessWalkers and The Economist, across media and other channels, makes us unique as an agency. These are complex client relationships to run and we have kept pace with strong work in tough and competitive categories.

According to the IPA , the average client/agency relationship is 2 and a half years , which means we’re batting at well above the average with Sainsbury’s at 35 years, BT at 20, Guinness at 16, Walkers at 15 and The Economist at 30. A source of huge pride as well as healthy paranoia, of course. We take nothing for granted and our heritage is for reference not refuge. This is definitely a business where management is about the here, the now and what’s next, not what has been.

"It was a high point getting to be Number One but as anyone in the agency will tell you, it takes a lot of hard work to stay there"


Creativebrief: Who are the people new to you (either within your business or externally) who have particularly impressed you in the last twelve months?

Cilla Snowball: We are obsessive about succession planning, so the ‘new’ people that have impressed me most are our own people who have recently stepped up to take on more responsibility. Alex Grieve and Adrian Rossi have taken the reins magnificently as Executive Creative Directors at AMVBBDO. It’s a huge and tough job and they do it with calm, generous and purposeful intent. Elsewhere in the group, the formidable and combined energy of our Group company CEOs, Ian Pearman at AMVBBDO,  Ali Gee at Fishburn, Sara Cremer at Redwood and Mike Dodds at Proximity means we get a lot of good stuff done together, fast, as well as having fun.

Creativebrief: What has been your agency’s best work in the last year?

Cilla Snowball: I’m most proud of the work we have done for Guinness. Not just the ‘Sapeurs’ film which won eight Cannes Lions, but the fantastic work we just launched for Guinness in Africa, Asia and the US. We’re expanding our remit across mobile, digital and content and we’re doing creative work that is truly ‘Made of More’.

Guinness ‘Sapeurs’ film by AMVBBDO (2014)

Creativebrief: Industry wide, what work has excited you most this year?

Cilla Snowball: The launch of BT Sport has been important, exciting and rewarding, bringing a dynamic new entrant to the market. From a standing start to 5 million customers, we have had to think fast and execute competitively. The brand extension and revitalisation work was duly awarded at the Marketing Society Awards for Excellence this Summer.

Creativebrief: Who or what inspires you?

Cilla Snowball: My job gives me access to some fantastic, values-led business leaders. Who could fail to be inspired by the likes of Dianne Thompson leading Camelot to another record year, Fiona Dawson at Mars, Gavin Patterson at BT, Mike Coupe taking the reins at Sainsbury’s and Richard Evans, leading PepsiCo across Europe? All inspiring in what they do as well as the way they lead.

Richard Curtis and Kevin Cahill of Comic Relief are well on the way to raising a billion pounds for charity by doing good over the years. Again, the way they lead is just as awesome as the scale of their achievement.

Launch of BT Sport campaign by AMVBBDO

Creativebrief: How do you stay in-touch with the industry’s best work and culturally relevant news?

Cilla Snowball: By staying hands on with the work in all its forms and devouring as much creativity and culture as the diary allows. 

I chair the Advertising Association and a key part of my role is the promotion of the industry at large, not just for its huge contribution to the creative industries but also the economy. A £16 billion annual investment in advertising is returning around £100 billion to GDP. It’s important that our creativity is measured in hard commercial terms and that the economic contribution of advertising is recognised.

Creativebrief: What work or agency from outside the UK do you think is particularly influential?

Cilla Snowball: I sit on BBDO’s worldwide board and we start every board meeting with a review of work from around our network. The work from Clemenger BBDO in Australia, Colenso BBDO in New Zealand, Almap BBDO in Brazil and BBDO New York routinely sets the pace for our network. Their work is always right up there. The awards and effectiveness shows that.

Creativebrief: What do you think are going to be the main challenges for agencies in the next two years?

Cilla Snowball: The market presents enormous opportunities. There’s never been a better time to work in the industry. We have never been better connected, nor equipped to target, engage and mobilise consumers. The challenge for agencies is how to manage and measure these opportunities for profitable growth. 

Clients rely on agencies to build on their skills, find new ways to connect, understand the interconnection of evolving and traditional media, whilst constantly proving the value of advertising, transaction by transaction. We have to collaborate better, experiment more and move at speed.

"A £16 billion annual investment in advertising is returning around £100 billion to GDP. It’s important that our creativity is measured in hard commercial terms and that the economic contribution of advertising is recognised"


Creativebrief: How do you see the media landscape unfolding in the next five years?

Cilla Snowball: I think new media and traditional media will find a way to happy co-existence, such that the prefixes can be dropped. And the media landscape will be more connected, personal and simple to navigate. With any luck we can do away with wires, remotes and chargers.

Creativebrief: What’s your attitude to the ‘traditional’ pitch? Do you think there is a better/more modern way?

Cilla Snowball: Pitches are a commercial reality. To grow, you have to win pitches. And to win pitches you have to win with the best work at a sensible price. The former used to be the hardest part. The latter is becoming the hardest part. You have to be great at both the creative and the commercial proposition in pitches these days.

Of course the best way is to grow your existing clients organically. And that doesn’t have to involve pitches.

Over time we’ll find a better way, but for now pitches work if they are managed well on both sides. And we secretly love them.

Creativebrief: What’s the best pitch you’ve been involved in?

Cilla Snowball: Definitely the Sainsbury’s repitch in 2005. We won with a fabulous insight from the data on meeting the target with an additional item per basket, a great idea in Try Something New Today, a superb team and everything at stake. The whole agency played a part in the pitch.

The other landmark win was our first road safety pitch, which was the beginning of the Think! campaign. It was our first government pitch win. The work was utterly barnstorming (home video footage of children killed in 30mph areas for Kill Your Speed and a son who kills his mother by failing to wear a rear seatbelt in Julie). Years later lives have been saved.

Sainsburys ‘Try something new today’ by AMVBBDO (2005)
‘Julie’ Think! campaign ‘Always wear a seat belt’ by AMV BBDO

Creativebrief: In what ways do you think the industry can change for the better?

Cilla Snowball: By doing great work that moves people. By creating content people care about. By being businesslike about how we measure the financial return, the economic contribution and the social impact of our work. Advertising is a great career and a great industry that is key to the economic prosperity of the UK. And by having a more balanced leadership profile only 21% of agencies are led by women currently. We need to double that.

Creativebrief: What’s the next big thing for AMV BBDO?

Cilla Snowball: We’re excited about lots of big things, particularly video in all forms, data, mobile and how to collaborate faster and better to deliver.  But the focus will always be “the work, the work, the work” and the power of our ideas to engage and to compete.