Once one of the country's most admired agencies, RKCR/Y&R suffered a series of account losses after 2014. That contributed to a rebranding in early 2017 as Y&R London, and the following year the agency underwent another transformation following the global merger of the Y&R network into smaller sister VML to form VMLY&R. That change capped a prolonged rollercoaster ride since the late 1990s. The agency earned a reputation in the 2000s as one of the UK's most creative big agencies, as well as one of the strongest outposts in the global Y&R network, following its creation in 1999 from the merger of the US agency's existing London office with Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe, an aggressively successful independent. Though it retained the look and feel, as well as the creative dexterity, of a smaller boutique, RKCR/Y&R rose to become one of the UK's top five agencies by billings. That achievement was all the more impressive because the company maintained the consistency of its creative output despite the departure of two successive management teams to form their own start-ups (one of which became Adam&Eve DDB and the other Joint). Most of the credit goes to the last of RKCR's remaining founders, Mark Roalfe, one of the few pillars of stability in a turbulent period. However, recent years have proved much more challenging. Alarm bells began ringing at the end of 2014 as a result of the departure of no fewer than five of the agency's biggest clients in quick succession, two of them to join that breakaway team at A&E DDB. Billings more than halved between 2013 and 2018, according to Nielsen estimates, before making a modest recovery in 2019 to £131m. Not even Roalfe could halt that erosion, but he remains in situ as chairman following the merger with VML. Justin Pahl joined from AMV BBDO as CEO of the merged agency. Laurent Simon is chief creative officer. However, noteworthy creative campaigns have been few and far between during 2020: the agency's own website displays only four from the whole year. At the end of 2020, the UK office of activation agency Geometry was merged into VMLY&R as part of a global realignment.
Capsule checked 26th November 2020
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Adbrands Daily Update 5th Dec 2018: Throwing a new spanner into the works of the merger of VML and Y&R, Jon Sharpe - former EMEA CEO of the latter, named to the same role a few weeks ago in VMLY&R - has departed the group suddenly following an internal investigation. "Jon Sharpe has resigned from VMLY&R during the course of a disciplinary process and while suspended from the company," said the agency. "Following reports received from employees, a formal investigation was launched using external counsel." Sharpe told Campaign "I have resigned from VMLY&R to pursue new opportunities. I strenuously deny the reports received and have vigorously defended myself against them."
Adbrands Weekly Update 25th Jan 2018: Ads of the Week: "The Fearless Are Here". Spectacular animation by Smith & Foulkes in this thrilling and intense film from Y&R London to promote BBC coverage of the Winter Olympics, starting in a couple of weeks. Y&R has traditionally used animation for these BBC Sport trailers in the past, but this ad adopts a much darker and more stylised tone than before. First-rate it is too.
Adbrands Weekly Update 22nd Dec 2016: Ads of the Week: "Moments". Christmas is already over in the world of advertising, and it's time to move on to booking that summer holiday (and the sales of course). Thomson - as TUI's UK division won't be known as for very much longer - gets in early with this nice campaign from RKCR/Y&R, making excellent use of "frozen moment" technology. It's another meaning to the phrase Happy Holidays!
Adbrands Weekly Update 17th Nov 2016: Ads Of The Week: "Mrs Claus". Interesting to note how Christmas has become the UK's version of Super Bowl, inspiring clients and agencies to really push the boat out with showstopper ads: sweeping ideas supported by a significant hike in budget. RKCR/Y&R bids farewell to troubled retailer Marks & Spencer with what is probably its best ad for that client for several years. M&S is finally willing to acknowledge that its core customer isn't 20-something but more like 50-something, and probably for the first time since the store dropped Twiggy from its ads it delivers an ad that actually scores a bullseye. But other parts of the market may be feeling a bit left out - like any M&S male shoppers men who *don't* have beards. We weren't sure about the spot when we first saw it last week, but the film has rather grown on us since then. We wondered at first what the ad really says about the store, but now we're not sure that matters. No one levels the same complaint at John Lewis, after all. And this has a distinct and very memorable idea. A bit corny, yes, but not one you'll forget in a hurry. So what next? Well, it's over to you, Grey London...
Adbrands Weekly Update 24th Aug 2016: RKCR/Y&R lost yet another key account, following a review in which only WPP agencies were invited to compete. Retailer Marks & Spencer will transfer its business instead to Grey London - the win is a ringing endorsement of that agency's new management team. RKCR/Y&R had held the M&S account for 16 years, but its work has become increasingly repetitive over the past year, at the same time as the store is itself struggling with weak performance. Though RKCR/Y&R has been able to add on a few significant accounts in recent months, it has lost five prestigious homegrown clients since the end of 2014: Virgin Atlantic, Lloyds Bank, Vodafone, Land Rover and now M&S.
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