The wags were quick to ask who exactly L, D and N are following the rebranding of RKCR/Y&R to Y&R London, accompanied by its new "Y&R LDN" block font text logo. As another piece of British advertising history is dispensed of so shortly after the less enduring but fondly remembered DLKW appendage was expunged from the Lowe agency in the UK, there was also an understandable outpouring of sentiment from alumni.
It’s little wonder – RKCR/Y&R has seen so many of advertising’s biggest names pass through its doors. Its part in identifying and nurturing so much brilliant talent under the careful stewardship of its original founders will never be forgotten, even if the memories of some of the outstanding work, particularly across the Virgin Group of companies, that came out of its doors might gradually and inevitably start to fade.
It wasn’t just the familial atmosphere that made the original RKCR stand out from the crowd; it was also an agency that, in its heyday, had a reputation for partying hard. When WPP acquired the shop in 1999 it added some much-needed hue as well as heft to its hitherto rather staid UK Y&R outpost.
Sadly there hasn’t been much to party about in more recent times – there’s little point in raking over its woes once again; they are well-known enough. But as a way of rebooting, the change in name which follows so shortly after the impressive David Patton arrived to run Y&R Europe is a defining one.
It also seems to move sense – RKCR/Y&R’s positioning as "the home of British brands" started to look a little bit spurious when it lost so much of its big domestic business. While it might have once proudly boasted that "99.7% of the British population consumed something it advertised every month" (although I expect this was skewed by its work on the BBC), this ended up sounding rather hollow when it failed to retain, let alone convert, many of the domestic briefs that came up for pitch.
Moreover, the fact that its Greater London House headquarters is now more famous for housing the ever-expanding Asos, once considered a peculiar online start-up but which has just announced a 36% increase in revenues in the last quarter of 2016 and is rapidly filling the building with the sort of talent that would have once been lured into advertising, shows the shifting sands advertising as a whole faces.
Jon Sharpe, Y&R London’s chief executive, said the name change reflected how the agency was now "increasingly a hub for pan-European and global relationships", citing more recent new business success with, err, Chanel and the Premier League. These are relative minnows, as Sharpe well knows, but he possibly deserves some slack for this daft hyperbole as the agency starts on its next chapter.