Jeremy Lee: A fab name above the door (or hatch) goes a long way

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Basing your start-up agency on a barge in Hoxton is, I suppose, almost as powerful a statement of intent as deciding what the new agency's name is going to be in the first place.

Well, that's what Yan Elliott and Luke Williamson, the former creative directors at WCRS, appear to be doing with their newly unveiled agency, Fabula. Their flag has been planted, albeit bobbing in the muddy waters of the Regent's Canal.

The business, billed as a "creative studio that will build brands that capture the public imagination", has a name that either sets their stall out from the start or harks back to the Polari language of Kenneth Williams and the days of camp theatre - obviously depending on your point of view and on how much truck you place in an agency moniker.

And the barge in the borough that even the tabloids no longer find necessary to prefix with the word "trendy"? Well, it almost seems superfluous to point out that this more than ticks every box on the cool list. While being based in Hoxton or Shoreditch will no longer pay the rent dividend that attracted the original creative pioneers in the first place, the price premium is worth it for the mental shortcut that what's on offer is likely to be forged in white heat.

The amphibious headquarters are also a small and probably inadvertent nod towards the heritage of that other pioneering but river-based start-up Naked Communications, born on the static First World War-era former Royal Navy corvette HMS President that is moored on the Thames. If Fabula quickly finds its sea legs and achieves the level of success that Naked did in its early years, then it will have been shown to be a lucky talisman for Elliott and Williamson. They may even need to consider relocating to an office where ablutions aren't carried out in a room that is signposted "the heads".

In the whole - and welcome - sweep of start-ups that have blessed these pages this year, the industry always tended to spend a disproportionate amount of time scrutinising an agency's moniker. From Hometown to Atomic to Joint to The Corner and now Fabula, is there anything that can be deduced - any hint of differentiation of output derived - from a nuance in their name, given the obvious absence of any work? And, equally, why haven't the agency founders included their own names in the new set-up?

Like it or not, names are important - a fact driven home to me recently by an agency chief executive (and former suit) who managed to call me by the wrong name four times over the space of one dinner - and Elliott (real name "Ian") and Williamson will be hoping that the barge, Hoxton and their reputations combine to create something that's a bit like Fabula.


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