NEWSMAKER/MT RAINEY: Team player’s vision steers Rainey Kelly to victory - The GM Astra win reveals MT Rainey’s strategy to be effective, Emma Hall says
By EMMA HALL, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 05 December 1997 12:00AM
MT Rainey prefers being part of a team. She hated the chief executive treatment that came with the job when she set up Chiat/Day in London eight years ago.
MT Rainey prefers being part of a team. She hated the chief
executive treatment that came with the job when she set up Chiat/Day in
London eight years ago.
’I felt so exposed. It’s difficult being a woman in business, people
assume you are pushy and publicity crazed,’ she says. She didn’t want
the exposure of a Campaign Newsmaker either, and prefers to be seen as
just one of four partners at Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe, the
four-year-old London agency that won the pounds 30 million pan-European
Astra launch last week.
There is no question that Jim Kelly, the agency’s managing partner, and
Robert Campbell and Mark Roalfe, its two creative partners, were all
equally responsible for the win. And the quartet’s team spirit was put
to the ultimate test when the pitch-day plans went horribly wrong.
Due in Zurich for a 10am slot with the top brass at General Motors
Europe, they booked their passage on a dawn flight from London. They
arrived safely and on time in Switzerland, psyched up for the biggest
pitch in the agency’s history. (They had turned down the Welfare to Work
pitch so they could give their all to GM.) But the art bags failed to
appear on the luggage carousel. Frantic liaison with British Midland
brought little encouragement - the artwork for the pitch would come on
the next flight, due in at 1.30pm.
They couldn’t even take solace in alcohol. So the four partners spent
hours in the airport lounge downing coffee, nibbling peanuts and
pretending to concentrate on the International Herald Tribune while
watching the agency’s life flash before them.
’Even though it wasn’t our fault, it made us look shambolic. Jim was
inconsolable and we all thought we might as well go home,’ Rainey
’Robert and I were the ones with the mobile phones trying to look
dynamic,’ is Kelly’s recollection of the gruelling five-hour wait.
Although the bags did show up on the next plane, the flight itself was
half an hour late, leaving the partners with yet another harrowing delay
and then a nightmare dash to the GM office.
The morning’s momentum was lost and, wired on caffeine, Rainey, Kelly,
Campbell and Roalfe arrived at 3pm, prepared for the worst. But the GM
managers were understanding and put them at their ease. In retrospect,
Kelly says, ’it was a good icebreaker’.
The horrors of the morning’s experience left the four of them with a
devil-may-care attitude. Rainey recalls: ’It was a classic example of a
Rainey Kelly pitch. We presented from the heart and we loved what we had
in the bag.’
So, evidently, did GM, which awarded Rainey Kelly the business after
going through the mandatory research procedures.
GM appointed Rainey Kelly because neither of its European roster
agencies, Lowe Howard-Spink or McCann-Erickson, had come up with the
goods for its biggest pan-European car launch of recent years. ’It was
inconvenient for GM - they didn’t want to have to go outside their
roster,’ admits Rainey, who is quick to acknowledge the value of
networks while talking up the Rainey Kelly culture at the same time.
’Ideas are the most important thing an agency has to give. We are proud
that a prestige company like GM, which is internationally managed as
opposed to centralised, recognises the real value of ideas and
The agency hopes that the Astra launch next spring will prove that
pan-European campaigns don’t have to go for the lowest common
’We have met the Astra brief with a high-ground, bold idea,’ Campbell
For a vibrant and relatively young agency, it is surprising to learn
that there have been no wild victory celebrations to mark such a turning
point in its history. No celebrations at all, in fact.
’This is a very important launch and we take the responsibility very
seriously,’ Rainey says. ’We have already started hiring staff,
negotiating on media and meeting the different clients. We do not
underestimate the scale of the task.’
Rainey sees herself as the eternal optimist and a calming influence on
the team. ’In my personal life I am relaxed and easy-going. I am very
demanding at work but I don’t get stressed by deadlines.’
The need to look good is what really stresses her out. ’I wish I was one
of those women who sails through the airport in a waft of fine
fragrance, but I’m always harassed.’ She would love to spend hours in
preparation for black-tie dinners but, more often than not, she gets
home from the office with only ten minutes to spare before she has to
dash out again.
’I haven’t been to Harvey Nichols for a year,’ she moans, as she
remembers her growing pile of unspent HN gift vouchers. ’I do buy a lot
of clothes but only when I’m on trips abroad.’
This reassuring, feminine yearning for glamour is heartfelt but
illogical. Apart from the fact that Rainey could give Kirsty Young a run
for her money in the style stakes, perfection is plainly a dream rather
than a goal. She could choose to work shorter hours at the agency, give
up her work for the refugee charity, Pilot Light, stop giving so many
speeches at planning conferences, or spend weekends at luxury health
spas instead of cooking for 12 in her Oxfordshire country cottage. But
she chooses to work like crazy and socialise with the gusto of a
successful fortysomething who is not tied down by children.
Throughout her career, Rainey has been an extremely high achiever. After
getting a psychology degree from Glasgow University, she went on to take
an MSc in signal detection theory, producing a dissertation that was
eventually published by Nato. Through magazines, she moved into
advertising in the late 70s, progressed up the ranks at Chiat/Day in the
US and, by 1990, was voted UK Advertising Woman of the Year for her work
on the launch of the London office of Chiat/Day in 1989.
Rainey Kelly started up in 1993 with a radical manifesto of payment for
ideas, which was received sceptically in an industry that knows the
tricks of the usp. Four years on, the partners have stuck to their guns
and the Astra win is the ultimate validation of their original
For Rainey, the acknowledged mentor of the agency’s overall direction,
the latest win signals that, as a team, the agency is on track. ’The
four of us are co-dependent. The whole is greater than the sum of our
parts and, to an extent, we can all fill each other’s roles.’
The partners still run the agency and remain involved with all the
’Don’t say that,’ Roalfe pleads at the suggestion they might spread
themselves too thinly. ’Possibly we are limited in how big we can grow,
but we’d rather give our best to a few clients. The reason for forming
the agency in the first place is that we all care how it turns out in
So far, they have not made any senior appointments. All the hirings have
been of junior or middleweight staff and they are resisting creating
another layer of management which could distance the partners from the
day-to-day workings of the agency.
’There is no question of who’s in charge,’ Rainey reveals, ’we don’t
delegate the direction of the agency.’
Reluctantly, Kelly is persuaded to pigeonhole the role of each of the
partners: ’I am in charge of worrying and making things happen, Robert
is a good people person, Mark makes sure we stick to our principles and
MT looks after the agency vision.’
For a woman who thrives on change, Rainey seems remarkably settled. ’At
the moment, there’s plenty of change in my personal life so I don’t need
it in my professional life. We’ll need to move offices soon, so that
will keep me going for a couple of years.’
Whatever happens, Rainey plans to stick with Kelly, Campbell and Roalfe:
’There is no set of people I would rather work with,’ she proclaims.
Looking at the workload ahead of them, it is just as well the four
partners have developed a taste not only for working together, but
playing and fighting together too.
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk
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