Ad Agency Names Have Undergone a Transformation

Advertising Agency Names Are Becoming More Creative

Man Bored at Work
Your Agency Name is Boring. Getty Images

It's surprising to think that in an industry that makes its bread and butter with creativity and originality, advertising is home to some of the most boring agency names on the planet.

It's fair to say that only law firms rival this completely uninspired approach to naming. It's been said that self-promotion is one of the hardest things for any agency to do, and do well, and that is clearly evidenced by the bland and banal name choices being made.

The formula, at least for the last 60-70 years, appears to be: founder surname 1 + founder surname 2 = agency name. This is modified to become a laundry list of partners as they join the company, or are promoted. 

The Big Players Have The Boring Names
Take a look at the top 5 advertising agencies around the world, listed by revenue, at the time of writing this article. These are the big-name ad agencies with blue chip clients. 

  1. WPP Group London
  2. Omnicom Group NY City
  3. Publicis Groupe S.A. Paris
  4. Interpublic Group NY City
  5. Dentsu Tokyo

And here are a list of other agencies that make big money, year after year:

  • Hakuhodo DY Holdings Tokyo
  • Havas Suresnes, France
  • Aegis Group London
  • Asatsu-DK Tokyo
  • MDC Partners Toronto/NY City
  • Sapient Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • aQuantive Seattle
  • Aspen Marketing Services West Chicago, Illinois
  • Cheil Communications Seoul
  • Monster Worldwide NY City
  • WB Doner & Company Southfield, Michigan
  • Cossette Communication Group Quebec City
  • Richards Group Dallas
  • Bartle Bogle Hegarty London
  • M&C Saatchi London
  • Chime Communications PLC London
  • Merkle Lanham, Maryland
  • Weiden+Kennedy Portland, Oregon
  • RPA Santa Monica
  • Cramer-Krasselt Chicago

Still awake? Congratulations. To anyone other than shareholders in these firms, the names are about as memorable and exciting as a cold bowl of porridge.

 

It's just a laundry list of boring acronyms, dull suffixes and blatant attempts to raise the egos of the founders. An agency as creative as Bartle Bogle Hegarty, for instance, may not get very far today with such an average and forgettable moniker.

But it seems to have been the case, in the sixties, seventies, eighties, and nineties, for agencies to go with the standard "names above the door" approach. Even the best agencies ever to grace the industry, including Doyle Dane BernbachOgilvy & Mather, and TBWA, all suffered from "I want to be famous!" syndrome.

This is a classic case of ego trumping the greater good. In any situation where names make up the title of an agency or business, it's inevitable that someone will leave and someone else will join, or get promoted. It's why you end up with ridiculous agency names like AMVBBDO. Seriously, that's just a soup of initials. If you have a more conceptual name, none of that matters. And modern agencies know this all too well.

That Was Then. This is Now...Thankfully.

More and more agencies are starting to come around to a more creative way of thinking. Solid, memorable and creative agency names that currently populate the industry include:

  • 72 And Sunny
  • Strawberry Frog
  • Taxi
  • Wexley School for Girls
  • Big Spaceship
  • The Bank
  • Razorfish
  • Pocket Hercules
  • Kids Love Jetlag
  • Omelet
  • David & Goliath
  • Walrus
  • Mother
  • Moosylvania
  • Creature
  • Blammo Worldwide
  • The Glue Society
  • Farm
  • Bonehook

The difference between the two lists is night and day. While one, the former, looks more at home at a boring fundraiser for lawyers, the other is an exciting collection of agencies that conjures a story beyond the name.

Blammo Worldwide. They clearly have a sense of humor, an easy-going approach, but also relate that they'll have an impact. Imagine if they had instead gone with the surnames of the four major players in the agency - McNab, Gee, Simon and Emslie.

Would that even have garnered a second look?

Perhaps in their day, clients wanted a sense of structure and a solid foundation from their ad agencies, and so "name soup" was a good choice to attract clientele.

These days, it seems that the new kids on the block are looking at things a little differently. Sure, they're not in the top 25, and probably never will be considering the considerable size, history, and billings of their much higher paid competitors. But with agencies like Mother and Taxi making big waves, they should not be surprised to see themselves nipping at the heels of the big boys.

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