Now all new agency Joint has to do is persuade BHS boss Philip Green to love advertising

RKCR/Y&R, as WPP’s Y&R agency still insists on being known in London, is, amongst other things, a great incubator of new agencies.

Maybe that’s why it keeps the Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe bit (even though all but one have departed) as that particular hotshop was drafted in by Sir Martin Sorrell a decade or so ago to revive the stuttering Y&R.

Its most famous recent breakaway was Adam & Eve, which then went on to sell itself to Omnicom’s DDB London for a reported £60m. This breakaway incurred the considerable ire of Sir Martin who successfully sued the A&E founders for the best part of £1m – but, somehow or other, the agency survived.

The most recent Y&R breakaway, Joint, headed by former Y&R London CEO Richard Exon and creative director Damon Collins (right and left), has taken no such chances; keeping its head firmly below the parapet.

It has just won its second biggish client, Sir Philip Green’s BHS retail chain. Its first appears to be the about-to-be-launched TSB bank network, which comprises the 632 branches of Lloyds Bank which it was forced to sell by the EU following the UK government bank bail-out in 2010. These were supposed to be destined for the Co-op Bank until it found it didn’t have the money.

The fact that TSB is to be floated, sometime, as a standalone bank network is presumably good news for Joint as it won’t have to fend off competition from the main Co-op agency Leo Burnett. There’s also a Y&R connection here. Lloyds is one of Y&R’s biggest accounts and presumably Exon and Collins are valued by the Lloyds management, still in charge until flotation occurs.

So it’s a funny old way to start in some ways and life is unlikely to become any more straightforward with Sir Philip Green as a client.

Green, one of the UK’s richest men (he also owns Top Shop), has never been a fan of retail advertising or advertising agencies. His strength is in shrewd sourcing and buying and spotting undervalued retail property (in the days when there was such a thing). He has also confounded his detractors by showing a shrewd eye for women’s fashions at Top Shop.

BHS is a different kettle of poissons entirely. It was his first big retail acquisition, buying it because it was there as much as anything (and the property, of course). It stayed in his growing Arcadia empire as he tried and failed to buy Marks & Spencer but many people are unclear about what exactly it is.

Pre-Green, for many years as British Home Stores (which tells a tale), it was a kind of downmarket M&S, selling the same kind of thing (including a bit of food). It was best-known for its lighting departments.

And it’s still much the same although it’s been Greened up a bit.

So the task awaiting Joint is hardly an easy one. The reported budget of £4m sounds a lot but isn’t really, especially when you consider that M&S, which is showing some belated signs of getting its clothing act together, spends nearer £50m.

Oh…and who handles M&S? Why, RKCR/Y&R of course. Sometimes there’s just no escaping your roots.

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About Stephen Foster

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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.