Make your name in 2019
A view from Andy Nairn

Make your name in 2019

What's in an agency name? Quite a lot, in fact.

Everybody seems to be convinced that 2019 is going to be terrible and that agencies are doomed. In which case, it’s the perfect time for you to launch that start-up you’ve been dreaming about. Yes, actually put your money where your mouth is and do something that I guarantee will be the most exciting episode of your career. 

Don’t listen to anybody who says the market is too cluttered (it is, but there’s always room for bright, ambitious people who want to do things differently). But do buckle yourself in for a rollercoaster ride. And, in particular, prepare for one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make in your working life: what to call the bloody thing.

You see, any entrepreneur will tell you how exciting (but also mildly traumatising) the branding decision is. The parallels with naming a baby are inescapable. You’re desperate to bestow the perfect moniker on something you love to bits but haven’t yet met; you’re mindful of saddling your little beauty with something unfortunate that you’ll all come to regret; and you’re hopeful that, whatever you choose, they’ll grow into it somehow and everyone else will simply focus on how the littlun behaves. Oh yes, it’s a lonely process too; you can ask others for their views, but they invariably look into the middle distance and tell you it’s lovely, while pulling faces when your back is turned.

In our case, my two fellow proud parents and I thought we’d cracked it early on with what felt like a great name. But as the big day grew nearer, we started to have serious doubts (despite the fact that we had registered the birth at Companies House and told all our friends and family). Mild panic ensued as we tried to come up with a replacement. We brainstormed. We got through forests of Post-it notes. We went down the pub (please do not try this method; we thought we’d struck gold that night, but when we woke up we realised that even Gwyneth Paltrow would be embarrassed by some of the names we’d chosen). 

Then, just when it appeared that all was lost, Danny dug out an old idea that he’d had for a band at school. Reluctantly, he accepted that his chances of rock 'n' roll stardom were perhaps diminishing and we nicked "Lucky Generals" for ourselves. These two words then set the tone for our precious culture: ambitious, collective and fun.

Now, you might find this little trip down memory lane rather self-indulgent (in which case, apologies). And you’d be right in saying a good name is worthless if there’s no substance behind it. But I think there’s a bigger point at stake here, whether you’re thinking of doing your own thing (remember: you should!) or improving someone else’s thing.

So much of the analysis of our industry’s ills has focused on structure and capabilities – and of course they’re important. But the best agencies (like all good brands) have a culture and spirit that go way beyond functional characteristics. The big networks seem to have forgotten this as they collide names together, rip out cultures and create call-centre offices.

Agencies are brands. Brands need personality. And, in an increasingly anonymous corporate world, there has never been a better moment to make your name. Good luck.

Andy Nairn is a founding partner of Lucky Generals