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

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

intellectual capital.’

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

the end.’

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.


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