Jeremy Lee
Jeremy Lee
A view from Jeremy Lee

The & Partnership London - all change or more of the same?

As moments in advertising history go, the passing of CHI & Partners and its subsequent rebirth as The & Partnership London might not be among the most earth-shattering.

Few tears will be shed given that Messrs C and I left many moons ago, while Mr H is still very much an active member – and large shareholder – in its parent company from which it derives its new name and where he also derives his considerable wealth. Equally many other, perhaps more venerable, agency names are likely to disappear completely as the year progresses and holding companies seek to rationalise their brand portfolio and cut costs.

Nonetheless, it is still worthy of note as an indicator of agencies seeking to prove that they are throwing off the shackles of their old legacy models as creators of just traditional advertising, and are embracing the brave new world that technology, data and creativity is forging.

Sarah Golding, The & Partnership London’s chief executive, is known for coining a nifty turn of phrase to shorthand things. On the back of her impressive "Magic and the machines" agenda that she leads as president of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, her chosen bon mots for the agency is "Big, Bold, Bionic". As descriptors of the new brand name they may not necessarily apply, but they help show the shop’s ambition for its work, and its direction of travel – big ideas, bold creativity and bionic use of technology. 

Quite who pushed for the rebrand – its founder Johnny Hornby or its chief executive Sarah Golding – rather depends on to whom you are talking. But it has resulted in some housekeeping to its structure, with CRM capabilities that were once handled by Rapier now largely brought under The&Partnership London’s wing.

Five years after Hornby famously rode to the rescue of his then friend Jonathan Stead after Rapier’s ignominious collapse, the partnership between the two companies appears to be dissolving, although Rapier remains an independent brand with its own clients working from The & Partnership’s offices. To many, the decision to bail out Stead was an odd one – the Rapier brand (and perhaps even the Stead brand) had been tainted by the collapse.

It is evidence that The & Partnership London aims to put itself at the very centre of The & Partnership offering – a place, Golding says, it more than deserves given that it spawned what is now its master and is the group’s creative and strategic heart. Other parts of the holding company – such as content division AllTogetherNow remain separate – for now. 

So what can we hope to see from The & Partnership London? Well, more of the same it seems – the agency has already produced pioneering work, such as its data-driven TV ads for Argos and its "Hoverboard Project" for Lexus. What would be particularly welcome is evidence of the shop troubling the Campaign new-business rankings – one area where it has been underperforming.

Nonetheless, the rebrand change seems sensible as an explicit acknowledgment of these changing times – of the rise of tech and data alongside creative thinking, something that Golding in her auspices at the IPA has confronted full on. There’s still a small irony, though, that this same new name includes a grammatical logogram that those same algorithms that are helping shape the future find difficult for their rankings.