LONDON: Ad agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty has shocked the London agency scene by making 40 of its 400 staff redundant. This follows the introduction of a voluntary pay cut of 3.5% earlier this year as the much-lauded agency grappled with the effects of the recession.

BBH was founded in 1982 by John Bartle (now retired), Nigel Bogle (pictured) and creative director Sir John Hegarty. It has since earned a woldwide reputation for creativity for its work on clients including Audi, Levi's and Unilever brands Lynx and Surf, winning two agency of the year awards at Cannes, 32 IPA Effectiveness Awards and Ad Age's Global Network of the Year.

Now 49-per cent owned by Publicis, it created the first successful 'micro network' with offices in New York, Sao Paulo, Shanghai and Singapore as well as its base in London.

The company says the job losses are part of a restructuring process as well as a response to the recession. “It's a very difficult market at the moment and there was always a chance we'd have to do this,” says UK CEO Ben Fennell.

“It is also part of a large structural review that will see us becoming more commercial by embedding data in our strategy, embedding more technology and technologists into our creative offering and ensuring a faster and leaner delivery system for our clients.”

Like other top London agencies, BBH has been hit by savage adspend cutbacks, with clients like British Airways, which it won a few years back from M&C Saatchi, spending a fraction of what they did in the good times.

But the news has still shaken other London agencies who regarded BBH as one of the strongest and most resilient operators in the market.

Data sourced from Campaign; additional reporting by WARC staff