PERSPECTIVE: Rainey Kelly cashes in on its apparently charmed beginning

Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe appears to have enjoyed a charmed life right up to its lucrative sale to Young & Rubicam, a relatively benign, non-desperate multinational. Born in the dog days of recession, the agency’s growth has been inexorable.

Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe appears to have enjoyed a charmed life

right up to its lucrative sale to Young & Rubicam, a relatively benign,

non-desperate multinational. Born in the dog days of recession, the

agency’s growth has been inexorable.



Six years ago, MT Rainey was the star of the four, but had experienced a

mixed time running Chiat Day. Jim Kelly had a good reputation at GGT,

but would he flourish beyond that hot-house environment? Robert Campbell

and Mark Roalfe were David Abbott’s heirs apparent at Abbott Mead

Vickers BBDO, but their stars had lost some lustre at the Banks

Partnership.



All four partners - Rainey, the ambitious, clever strategist; Kelly, the

workaholic; Campbell and Roalfe, the model modern creative directors -

are talented in their own right but, together, they represent more than

the sum of their parts.



Like Howell Henry Chaldecott Lury, the other outstanding start-up of

recent years, there was no weak link. Actually, if you go further back

to start-ups such as Boase Massimi Pollitt (and Webster), Abbott Mead

Vickers and Bartle Bogle Hegarty, that’s a universal truth. (Rightly or

not, M&C Saatchi will always be judged by its own, very different,

yardstick.)



Steve Henry said at the time of Rainey Kelly’s launch that they would be

strong competitors. And as they set about taming Virgin Atlantic and

News International, turning nightmare clients into big-spenders that buy

fine advertising, he was proved right. Miller Pilsner and Virgin

Atlantic have been the most universally applauded of their creative

oeuvre, the former being one of the genuinely daring campaigns of the

90s.



The pan-European General Motors Astra launch took the agency to another

level. It gave the principals a huge lesson in politics, both at the

client end and through having to deal with the insidious resentment of

other roster agencies. Astra was also the first big Rainey Kelly

campaign to have mixed reviews.



The major clients have stayed: GM, despite the whispering campaign, was

resigned only this week, Scottish Courage and News International have

given the agency incremental business, and the Virgin relationship has

blossomed.



However, Rainey Kelly could not carry on as it was. It found itself

stymied in the same middle ground that has done for so many of its

predecessors.



What’s more, the agency’s key founding philosophy was access to

principals - a tenet many pay lip-service too, but which Rainey Kelly

tried hard to make stick, at some personal cost. That ’charmed life’

took a lot of hard work. Now it’s pay day, and the beginning of a new

challenge: playing on a global stage. Staff at Greater London House will

be nervous but they needn’t be. Few will doubt that the foursome has the

talent, energy and will to succeed again.



stefano.hatfield@haynet.com



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