What’s going on at The Red Brick Road? A change of direction or a critical crossroads?

You have to say it’s all a bit peculiar, Campaign ran a story yesterday that The Red Brick Road, the agency Sir Frank Lowe set up when he finally fell out with Interpublic and took the £40m Tesco account away from Lowe & Partners, is merging with its digital sister agency Ruby and looking for a new name.

Which presumably means a new identity.

And Ruby boss David Miller was the person quoted in the article, not Paul Hammersley, the former BMP account boss who took over from Lowe when the great man retired last year.

So is The Red Brick Road, the one Judy Garland didn’t take in the Wizard of Oz, running out of, er, road?

Well it hasn’t set the world on fire even though it’s done OK for Tesco and for some other clients including Magners cider and ITV marketing body Thinkbox.

Its big break, apart from Tesco of course, was getting a crack at an international campaign for Heineken, courtesy of Frank’s relationship with the Heineken family bigwigs.

But it blew this with a decidedly odd campaign featuring a man in a bath with a lobster which was clearly supposed to be funny and relevant but wasn’t either. Terry Lovelock and Alan Waldie from Frank’s past could have pulled this one off but that was then.

You can see where it’s coming from, it just doesn’t get there.

Anyway Frank has now retired although you can’t imagine him staying away for ever. And maybe the agency is just having an outbreak of democracy in the old autocrats’s absence.

But there are testing times ahead. Long-serving Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy who backed Lowe at Lowe Howard-Spink and then The Red Brick Road has retired too and successor Philip Clarke doesn’t do sentiment or old time’s sake.

WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell has been after the Tesco account for years, he’d even buy The Red Brick Road to get it.

Well we’ll see what happens. But it’s all a bit odd.

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David Miller heineken Interpublic itv lowe & partners Lowe Howard-Spink Paul Hammersley Philip Clarke ruby Sir Frank Lowe Sir Martin Sorrell Sir Terry Leahy Tesco the red brick road thinkbox

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.
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