Paradise Lost

St. Luke's then. Whee!

St. Lukes, just one year old, generates annual billings of 45 million pounds ( $72 million ). It's the fasted growing agency in London, meeting its 1996 revenue target in just the first for months. Clients include the Midland Bank, BBC One Radio, and a line of cosmetics for Boots, a chain of drugstores. Last spring, Ikea awarded its U.K. account to St. Lukes, as did Eurostar, the struggling English Channel rail system.

The walls and shelves of most agencies are abundantly bric-a-bracked with the trophies they've bagged at industry award shows. St. Lukes wins no contests -- for the simple, stubborn reason that the agency refuses to enter any.

Law points to what he considers to be a more convincing expression of industry acclamation: envy. A recent "Impact" magazine poll asked London's art directors and copywriters where they would most like to work. Tiny St. Lukes took third position.

Four blocks south of St. Lukes, a sign in the greasy window of a hotel cafe peddles "Virginia Woolf Burgers." A plaque hovering above a nearby sandwich shop directs eyes to a garret which once sheltered Yeats. A mansion was Keynes's, an office was Eliot's. This is Bloomsbury, ground-zero in the post-Victorian revolt in literature, painting, and morality. The real estate here continues to stimulate dissent.

"We've turned our backs on the advertising village," says Andy Law. The "village," specifically, is the London advertising community, which appears to be equally keen on ignoring St. Lukes.

"The other agencies in town paid attention for about one nanosecond," says Isabel Bird, whose team-building consultancy, The Coaching House, works with many of London's most senior ad executives. "They thought the name sounded silly, like a hospital."

St. Luke's now. Whoa.

For a few years after it was launched on 18 October – St Luke's Day – 1995, St Luke's was the hottest news in advertising. It attracted big- name clients – BT, Ikea, HSBC, even the Government – like bees to honey, and won an Agency of the Year award in 1997. The style sections of the Sunday supplements ran stories extolling the virtues of its ultra-designed offices, artists-in-residence and themed "brand rooms". The Harvard Business Review called it "the most frightening company on earth". "What Saatchi & Saatchi was to the Eighties," says the industry watcher Peter York, "St Luke's was to the Nineties."

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