What’s in an agency name? DWH hires Victors & Spoils to crowd-source a better one

Well it’s an interesting idea: DWH in Santa Monica (or is that DW+H, even they don’s seem sure) thinks its name is boring and unmemorable so it’s hired rival (sort of) crowd-sourcing agency Victors & Spoils to solicit a better one from the, er, crowd. There’s a rather rambling interview with the PSFK website here.

Agency names are always a bind and a constant source of amusement to the outside world. Law firms have put (some) names above the door for decades of course but agencies always used to insist on having every founding name plus, probably, the office cat.

About the most long-winded in the London of yore was an outfit called Beverley Fowler Maslin Oxlade & Starkey of whom the latter was the only one with any profile. This was Reg Starkey, not the office cat, who is still on the scene.

But mockery of agency names really took off when Saatchi & Saatchi won the Tory Party account and became the first, maybe only, ad agency to be recognised widely outside the business, in the UK anyway.

Journalists had great fun mis-spelling this (this was in the days when foreigners were funny). Private Eye used to refer to the agency as the Icycreamio Brothers. I’ve no idea if they really thought the Saatchis, who actually hailed from Iraq, were Italian. Many settled for Scratchy & Scratchy (or Scratchi & Scratchi).

My favourite was an outfit called Beavis Shrimpling & Softly, just because.

Then came the wave of Mother, Iris, Anomaly et al. Some of these are OK. others not. There’s one called Lean Mean Fighting Machine, which I find incredibly irritating for some reason. I never liked Mother, especially when they used to refer to account handlers as ‘mothers,’ but it’s clearly worked.

Adam & Eve is another rather twee name that’s paid off although the partners (now running DDB London) were pissed off when people began to abbreviate this to A&E (standing for accident and emergency). I believe they succeeded in persuading some gullible souls to abbreviate to A+E (‘+’ has become an agency cliche all of its own).

And some big agencies with a name or names above the door began to use just initials, maybe in some cases to stop disagreeable abbreviations invented by others. J. Walter Thompson dropped all reference to the famous bogus commodore (left) who founded the agency and became plain JWT about ten years ago. Everybody used to call it JWT but the name change seemed to jettison some of its fame, a valuable quality in adland. Bartle Bogle Hegarty is mostly BBH these days. My friend Paul Simons (who used to be part of a pretty long agency moniker himself) wrote interestingly on this subject as part of a wider look at agency mergers a short while ago.

Anyway, we wait to see what Victors & Spoils (which is rather a good name) comes up with for DWH. Bearing in mind the public’s rather sceptical attitude to advertising people, some of them will be be rejected as unusable, irrelevant or much worse.

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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. Avatar

    As I have posted on “AdScam.” The question is… What kind of client is going to give their business to an agency that can’t even come up with their own name. So they outsource it to another agency, that then crowd sources it… Meaning the 10,000 chimps with typewriters that will eventually come up with the collected works of Shakespeare, for a couple of thousand bucks. No wonder this biz is fucked. Anyway, what’s wrong with their name… It’s irrelevant. The only thing that counts is the work… And they’ve just demonstrated they are incapable of doing that. What a joke.