RKCR/Y&R emerges as WPP’s top UK creative agency as it snaps up £47m Vodafone

Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe is an often unremarked entity on the London creative front but the decision by WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell to buy the agency a decade ago and use it to revitalise big purchase Young & Rubicam in London has worked out very well.

This despite a high profile breakaway a couple of years ago when David Golding, James Murphy and Ben Priest departed to set up Adam & Eve and managed to land the John Lewis and Halifax accounts among others, despite a lawsuit from Sir Martin that cost the embryo agency at least £800,000.

Now RKCR/Y&R has won an internal WPP shoot-out to win the Vodafone UK account against opposition from siblings JWT, which used to handle Vodafone, and Ogilvy & Mather.

For some reason, known only to Vodafone’s marketing department whose doing are opaque at best, WPP-owned agency Grey was not invited to participate despite its recent campaign in Ireland being the best thing Vodafone has produced for years.

So why was Vodafone an internal WPP shoot-out?

Well you’d have to ask them. WPP handles the account worldwide through something called ‘Team Vodafone’ (do they have cheerleaders?) so when Vodafone UK decided to dump Bartle Bogle Hegarty the logical thing to do (as Sir Martin kept reminding them) was to canvas WPP agencies.

Any sensible client would have lined up WPP’s preferred option (Y&R presumably as Grey was apparently off limits) against a couple of good creative agencies: Mother and VCCP maybe. Wieden+Kennedy was still arranging the last rites with Nokia at the time.

But Vodafone has never been a particularly sensible marketer despite providing highly-paid billets for numerous senior ad agency and marketing types.

Well let’s hope RKCR/Y&R comes up with something half-decent. One of the attractions of Rainey Kelly to Y&R was Mary-Teresa Rainey’s planning skills, which under different management remains a very good way of getting contentious work through even the most difficult of clients. BMP built a global reputation on it.

RKCR/Y&R has managed to handle Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic to mutual advantage for years now, partly through its ability to persuade its headstrong boss not to depart to the newest agency in town, one which would do the work more cheaply and feature lots of pics of him man-handling assorted blondes. Irrefutable planning has a role to play in this.

So it’s an interesting one; probably more important for RKCR/Y&R and WPP than Vodafone which carries on making buckets of money despite its terrible marketing.

You May Also Like

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.