A mystery wrapped in an enigma – what exactly is Johnny Hornby’s new ‘ampersand’ global agency?

Actually it’s called The & Partnership, which must be one of the daftest names ever given to an agency, and is an extension of Johnny Hornby’s CHI, 49 per cent owned by WPP. CHI is supposed to be running the flagging Bates network in Asia and also has an outpost in New York.

JohnnyHornby_AndrewBailey_ColorBut now we have the spanking new The & Partnership which consist of CHI, its media operation M Six ( a joint venture with WPP’s GroupM), digital and customer relationship shop Rapier; PR agency Halpern and The Social Practice. These are supposed to employ about 1,000 people and the biggest client is Samsung. Andrew Bailey (right) with Hornby, chairman of Omnicom’s Proximity in the US, is going to be North America CEO of the new outfit.

No word at all, at the moment, on what’s going to happen to Asian network Bates although, as we’ve written here before, Dentsu is said to have designs on it.

The key to all this, of course, is WPP. WPP took a 49 per cent stake in Hornby’s CHI for about £30m ten years or so ago, a deal that boosted veteran Labour spinner Peter Mandelson’s bank balance considerably as he was an early backer of ace networker Hornby’s CHI.

Since then Hornby has been written up and down as a possible successor to WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell. WPP will have a 49 per cent stake in The & Partnership, which rather makes you wonder why it didn’t offer some advice on naming the thing, given that it owns more branding companies than anyone else.

Is this just another WPP dustbin in which to deposit various companies it’s acquired along the way? Rather like its Possible Worldwide digital network. Or is it a genuinely new proposition?

North America boss Bailey told Ad Age: “As an industry, we used to do a few big simple things to drive results for clients. Today’s consumer expectations require that we do many things well and measure the impact of our labors for clients. Business-changing creativity has a new face today.”

Which doesn’t get us very far but looks a bit like a new spin on direct marketing, which is where Proximity started before it became part of BBDO.

But that awful name….






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