Growth through innovation

In the second of a series of blogs leading up to Target’s 40th birthday on 1 September our Chairman, Colin Spencer, takes a look at 1987 and how things had changed in ten years.


By the late 1980s Margaret Thatcher’s pro-business Conservative government had led to a much improved economic situation; although it could be argued that their policies led to a boom and bust era. The attitude of this period was very much summed up by the Harry Enfield ‘Loadsamoney’ character; salaries were going up, taxes down, credit was easy to get, house prices were rising at an amazing rate and everything looked so much better! It could not last, however, but more of that in future articles.


By 1987, under Patrick Wood’s leadership, Target had established itself in Cheltenham as an integrated advertising agency, now based in St James’ Square after a spell in Imperial Square. There was a steady stream of clients including Westbury Homes, Bovis Homes, Kraft, Eagle Star and Linotype, as well as a number of smaller ones.


The big break for Target came earlier that decade in January 1983, when it pitched against major London and Birmingham agencies to win Cheltenham & Gloucester Building Society. The pitch-winning idea was to set up a postal account (C & G Gold) which was a first in the financial services industry and within six months became C & G’s fourth largest ‘branch’, with just two people. It would become the forerunner of today’s online savings accounts.


There was rapid growth in Financial Services in the 1980s and clients in this sector were very valuable to agencies. At the time, interest rate changes were frequent which meant that financial institutions needed to update their advertising, brochures and leaflets etc, so agencies made money charging for studio time, media and printing. Loadsamoney!


But there was more to it than just cashing in, as Target was able to offer services to clients that would enhance their products and services; a strategy that we still embrace today in the ever-changing world of communications.


In the 1980s there was a ‘work hard, play hard’ culture and I became very aware of this when I joined Saatchi & Saatchi in 1983. Saatchi’s were in the news as the agency who helped the Conservatives win the 1979 election, as well as its high profile appointment to act for British Airways, ‘The World’s Favourite Airline’. After working for a manufacturing company, it was a bit of a culture shock to be working long hours but also taking time out for boozy parties to celebrate big wins! It seemed to be quite a common theme in the services industry at the time.


In October 1987, the Great Storm turned Sevenoaks into ‘Nooaks’ and Black Monday saw more than £50 billion wiped off the London Stock Exchange; first signs of the boom and bust. By the end of the year, the Channel Tunnel had been given the go-ahead and there was talk of a single European currency, although nobody ever believed that would happen!


In my article next week I will look at 1997.