What’s in a new/old name? A better future Y&R hopes

New Y&R boss David Patton has made his first big move, changing the name of the London agency from RKCR/Y&R to Y&R.

Unless you’re a student of the wonderful world of agency nomenclature you may think: so what?

But Patton, who now runs Y&R outside the US having moved from fellow WPP agency Grey, is trying to bring a nighmarish few years at RKCR/Y&R to a close. The trouble all started when James Murphy, Ben Priest and David Golding, then RKCR/Y&R’s management team (still with me?) upped sticks to set up adam&eve (now adam&eveDDB).

WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell sued them – unavailingly in the end – while RKCR/Y&R under then CEO Ben Kay was left out on a limb – depending to a degree on clients who would sooner be with adam&eve, most notably Lloyds Bank, which finally moved to adam&eveDDB (blimey this is tiring) last year. Jon Sharpe succeeded Kay and has brought in Jonathan Burley from CHI as ECD.

Sorrell had bought indie agency Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe for an estimated £25m way back in 1999 (only chairman Roalfe is still at the agency) and, for a while, it succeeded in reviving Y&R which had never really cracked the big time in the UK although, being a part of a vast international network it handled lots of international business. But any agency based on an infusion of external talent is vulnerable to breakaways of its own.

Now Y&R has, wisely no doubt, given up trading on past RKCR glories. This presumably also means that Sorrell has given up on the notion of parachuting Johnny Hornby’s CHI (49 per cent owned by WPP) into Y&R, RKCR-style.

Separately, Alison Hoad, who resigned from Y&&R before Christmas, has emerged as the new CSO at BBH, another agency trying to recapture past glories without, mercifully, feeling the need to change its name.

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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.


  1. Correction. Sorrell did not bring in Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe, we sold to the founders of Y&R, some of the original “Madmen”, in 1999. Sorrell bought Y&R over a year later. We didn’t succeed in reviving Y&R “for a while”, we took control and built it to a top five agency within three years, winning accounts like Marks and Spencer, Lloyds TSB, and Times Newspapers and expanding with the Virgin empire which we had won as a start up, while reinvigorating Y&R’s international accounts. Most of this business was retained until recent years. The impact and culture of RKCR sustained long after we left and the talent we hired and nurtured have gone on to lead, build and create more great agencies across the world. It’s a good innings, a proud legacy and a happy ending. Good luck to Y&R for the future.

  2. My, my… It was just a few years ago when JWT changed it’s name to J. Walter Thompson, then after a couple of years, changed it back to JWT. At the same time they said they were no longer an advertising agency, but were now “Cultural Anthropologists.” Does this insanity never stop? Apparently, according to John Bond, the genius who co-founded Victors & Spoils on the unbelievably dumb idea that you can crowdsource advertising… “There should be no more creative directors. The job is dead and the title is wrong—it should be ‘curator.'” What a really, really, fucking dumb thing to say. But then again, that’s today’s ad biz for you.
    Cheers/George “AdScam” Parker

  3. Percival Brotherton-Ruggles the new grad can just call it YAR London instead of RKC-RAH