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Agency Titles: Where Have the Names Gone?
By: Len Kornblau
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There was a time when most if not all advertising agencies went by the names of their founders; Ogilvy and Mather, J Walter Thompson, Doyle Dane Bernbach. Then, of course, folks shortened the names to mere initials: O&M, DDB, JWT. Now we have all but jettisoned names and initials for catchy monikers. But why?
Advertising has always been a people business. Not just the talent, but the products — intellectual property, not manufactured goods. The famous quote about our business, attributed to Leo Burnett, “My inventory goes down the elevator every night,” sums it up pretty well.
So, why the move to impersonal agency names?
Are there no more like Bill Bernbach, David Ogilvy in the industry?
Could be the digital world has dehumanized our business. What technology can do for awareness has become as important, maybe more, than who creates it or uses it. So agencies have created names that create awareness for themselves amidst a tech generation for whom names seem less important.
Here are a few examples, with commentary, of course!
The Karma Agency – One must wonder if incense wafts through the air.
Big Duck – not a misprint
Area 17 – thankfully not 51
Barbarian Group – clients must have fun discussing that one
Campfire – daily kumbayas?
Squat Design – do they know ……
M – Does James Bond work there?
Years ago, a Philadelphia agency chose the name of the building that housed their office so prospective clients would think they were successful enough to own the building!
Yes, some of the names are catchy. Some are easy to remember. But the bottom line is, clients don’t care about the name, only the results!


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About the Author
Len Kornblau (@ProfessorAdwiz on Twitter) is an advertising and marketing pro who has taught at universities and excelled at field marketing and account service.
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