A classic corporate manoeuvre: struggling international brand buys
leading local independent. And what a team it bought. The Rainey Kelly
Campbell Roalfe quartet is hugely talented and nice. The deal has been
superbly implemented. Clients and senior people know where they
Why then am I uneasy about the future for ’New Young & Rubicam’? The
issue is culture. I love Y&R. It was the first agency I ever walked
There were carousel horses outside the lift, put there by the starred
creative department of the great Dennis Auton. The work was legendary -
’Beanz Meanz Heinz’, ’Award yourself the CDM’ - not just slogans but
great expression of brand values. The supporting act was massive and
well-formed, led by Tim Coles according to the sublime values of Ray
Rubicam - since torn up.
This is not to suggest that Rainey Kelly doesn’t understand or exhibit
great values. But Y&R’s challenges are unlikely to be overcome simply by
importing them. As Gerald Ronson said of Heron’s ill-fated adventure in
the US: ’Differing cultures are tricky. People speak the same language
but the words don’t mean the same.’
What is special for Y&R is that while New York is head office, London is
in some way a spiritual source - where creative leadership and billings
can go hand in hand, must go hand in hand. If they don’t, the very heart
of its belief is under threat.
That the agency serially undermined and abandoned its successive
attempts to fix the UK problem is evidence of the paranoia. When they
got it right in one department, it was going wrong in another. So they
pulled it up by the roots and started again. John Banks brought billings
and notoriety but not in the Y&R way. Richard French had creative style
but had his back pushed to the wall defending profits and multinational
The latest twist comes on the back of a period of calm for Y&R under the
shrewd Toby Hoare. Steadily he rebuilt the client base while Mike Cozens
produced some snappy creative work. But all the time there was pressure
for a step-change to catapult the agency back into the ratings.
At least now the move can be seen to build on success rather than on yet
another crisis. The question is whether, in the detail of the deal, both
sides have set Y&R on yet another cultural collision course.
Forcing Hoare out brings clarity of leadership. But in holding out for
autonomy, Rainey Kelly sacrificed a valuable conduit to both the parent
and the UK agency.
MT Rainey and colleagues would do well to find out what is good about
Y&R’s culture while asserting their own primacy.
But losing Hoare, even if he goes to another Y&R job, will hurt. He
knows where the bodies are buried and would have been a friend
Tim Lefroy was a client of Y&R from 1972-77 and worked there twice,
latterly as chief executive, between 1985 and 1991. He is chief
executive of RADiCAL.