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Omnicom’s new McDonald’s agency is..We Are Unlimited

Yes it’s true: the name of Omnicom’s new agency, set up to handle McDonald’s in the US (and elsewhere it no doubt hopes) is We Are Unlimited.

Which raises the question: why are agencies so rotten at branding themselves?

We Are Unlimited (which is roughly half DDB with the rest from all over the place including Google) follows hard on the heels of Hearts & Science, Omnicom’s new media agency formed to handle Procter & Gamble and AT&T in the US, about $7bn in media billings. H&S has also launched in the UK and is, no doubt, chasing P&G’s UK media business worth an estimated £210m. You kind of get what Hearts & Science is driving at. We Are Unlimited? In your dream perhaps.

Here they are (below), with a spanking new logo on the wall.

unlmtdteamphoto-1

Any new moniker, however daft, becomes accepted as time goes on provided the company does OK. Think Diageo for a booze company. Maybe, in agency land, there just aren’t enough names.

Once upon a time the founders would just put their names above the door. The world had a lot of fun with Saatchi & Saatchi (referred to by Private Eye is the “icycreamio” brothers, thinking they were Italian rather than of Iraqi descent). There was once a London agency called Beverley Fowler Maslin, Oxlade & Starkey which was actually run by a woman called Mo Jenns. Which made you wonder what the others did. My favourite, for some reason, was Beavis Shrimpling and Softly.

Then came Mother (or mother as it preferred) and it all changed. In their different ways Mother’s Robert Savile and WPP’s Martin Sorrell came to the conclusion that that the agency’s assets (often the names on the door) going up and down in the lift was an impediment to their ambitions. In Sorrell’s case the names on the door, like messrs Young & Rubicam, weren’t around any more so he had to find other ways of securing talent – or pinning it to the floor, take your pick. Everything that emanates from Mother is by Mother. At one point even suits were called mothers – still with us?

Adam&eve seemed rather a daft name when it first hove into view. Some hacks tried to wind them up by calling it A&E (standing in the UK for accident and emergency) thinking these smart cats had overlooked that option. Other wags called it adam&evening, after its industrious work culture.

Would Murphy, Priest, Golding and Forsyth (in whatever order) have worked as well? Now adam&eveDDB is set to be yet another Omnicom player on the world stage as it expands, first, in the US with the Samsung account. So it’s clear to see who had the last laugh.

WPP’s Sorrell also has his collection of new agency brands, set up to offer ‘bespoke’ solutions for particular clients. WPP’s huge Ford team trades (or has traded) under a bewildering number of names – the latest is Global Team Blue (after Ford’s blue badge presumably). Does Team Detroit still exist in the US? Anyway WPP still has the business. Other efforts like Enfatico for Dell and Cavalry for Miller Coors were less successful.

But agencies, of course, are branding experts – or are they?

There’s one simple test for these things.

When you meet a group of strangers and one asks who you work for do you feel a prat when you say: We Are Unlimited? One of the group will surely laugh.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

One comment

  1. Great to see Beavis, Shrimpling and Softly mentioned in this piece. I was an account exec there in the late 1970s. Christopher Beavis was creative director, Brian Shrimpling was the MD (as we used to call CEOs), and Jonathan Softly was my boss. We did everything: B2C and B2B ads, packaging, PR, brochures—whatever the client wanted. Not long after I left for Londsales (Jim Surguy era), the agency was rebranded as BSS International then sunk without trace. “But agencies, of course, are branding experts – or are they?”

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