Victors & Spoils

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My friends and I have had a running gag since senior year of college, every so often suggesting names for the rock band we never got around to forming. This article from A.V. Club renewed the conversation last December and revived another round, still nothing topping our default choice — Insipid Ostrich.
Two memorable songs from the late Jim Croce and the late Johnny Cash underscore the importance of selecting the proper moniker.

Not surprisingly, ad agency naming bears more than a passing resemblance to the rock world, which would help to explain some of the memorable names featured in this Adweek story. Here are the 40 strangest names in the global ad business; the article gives the background on each.

40. Taxi
39. Odopod
38. Bonehook
37. Big Spaceship
36. Droga5
35. The Bank
34. Razorfish
33, Naked
32, Wikreate
31. Steak
30. Creature
29. Lean Mean Fighting Machine
28. High Heels & Bananas
27. Blammo Worldwide
26. Omobono
25. The Chopping Block
24. Captains of Industry
23. The Glue Society
22. Farm
21. Adam & Eve
20. Elephants & Ants
19. Victors & Spoils
18. David & Goliath
17. For Office Use Only
16. Walrus
15. Mother
14. Mistress
13. G&M Plumbing
12. Moosylvania
11. The Barbarian Group
10. Omelet
9. Big Kitty Labs
8. Hello Viking
7. High Wide & Handsome
6. Barton F. Graf 9000
5. Kids Love Jetlag
4, Pocket Hercules
2. 72andsunny
1. Wexley School for Girls

In the past week, I’ve taken calls from two creative production houses whose catchy names were carefully chosen to set them apart — Fat Chimp Studios and The Nerdery.

Yesterday, I was reading an industry story on The Pitch and saw a banner for Gyro, the edgiest, buzz-worthiest branding/advertising agency to ever call Philadelphia home. When I clicked through, I realized it was not Gyro Worldwide, but another agency now using the name. A Google search for Gyro Worldwide led me to Quaker City Mercantile, a surprisingly mellow but still memorable (by comparison) rebranding.

The traditional agency nomenclature direction is a lot like the method followed by the legal profession. The name(s) on the door belong to the principals: Ogilvy and Mather; Doyle Dane Bernbach; Della Femina Travisano & Partners; even the fictional Mad Men shop, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.

That’s the model followed and continued by Newton Associates. Yes, Virginia, there was and still is a Jon Newton. We continue to collaborate, lunch and kibitz with Jon regularly. In 2003, when Gerry Giambattista and I purchased the agency as long-time employees from Jon and his account service business partner, Harry Streamer, we made a conscious decision to retain the name, carry the torch, and honor the high standards set by Newton Associates. We’ve never regretted our name decision and we’re proud to soon be coming up on marking our first decade.

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I’m feeling a little left out this week after reading this article from Advertising Age, which announced the first new Harley Davidson tv commercial delivered by a very non-traditional agency called Victors & Spoils. I’m still getting my head around the concept of Victors & Spoils, which on behalf of clients, employs “crowdsourcing” to solicit ideas from all over — from agencies and other creative firms and freelancers, as well as non-creatives. Sounds kind of like a Hollywood casting call in which armies of actors line up, assembly line style, for their 15 seconds of fame. NEXT!

I first became aware of Victors and Spoils, having answered a solicitation of theirs last year for concepts to promote the Andys, or another of the industry awards shows. My idea didn’t win, but it got me on their mailing list. It also made me more aware of their agency’s name. I saw in the industry trades that Victors & Spoils had won the Harley Davidson work. I had my interest piqued enough to respond to another e-mail at the end of January, a call for consideration to any writers who have interest or experience with Harleys. That’s not me, but I answered anyway, because (a) our Director of Accounting’s entire family rides or has experience selling Harleys in local franchises (and they would love to become consultants,) (b) good friends of mine worked at Carmichael Lynch and helped them win the Harley account, where it resided prior to Victors & Spoils (and they would love to become consultants), and (c) I took the plant tour in York, PA and came away impressed by the assembly care and the ability to customize the chopper you order.

Evidently, I got left in the dust, because this new spot was being worked on in September (not sure what Victors & Spoils’ latest solicitation is for, but I’m assuming it’s for ongoing creative support). You can get some sense of the crowdsourcing process from the article, and the sour grapes reaction to it from the rest of the agency community under the Comments section. Especially stinging is the idea from the spot came from a “passionate amateur.” I guess if Quentin Tarantino can make the leap from video store clerk to Hollywood auteur, the rest of us shouldn’t piss and moan when somewhere other than Madison Avenue dreams up the next big thing.

On the other hand, some of the posted comments about the new spot ring true. The cages concept and visuals are a pretty effective metaphor for the non-Harley crowd; however, production values of the spot could have been better. What’s more, the spot tries to do too much by introducing the customization message almost as an afterthought. That is what might attract and excite new Harley prospects, including how much fun it is to customize your cycle after you take it home (that last thought came from our Director of Accounting, though that’s not enough to win a consultancy around here). Where I think the spot really missed was in not being unveiled SuperBowl Sunday. One week later is its own kind of letdown.

Overall, the new commercial did get my attention. The jury is still out for me on the crowdsourcing thing, though. A great idea is a great idea, wherever or whomever it comes from. But in these days of content farms, and templated everything, I am concerned about the commoditization of this industry. The next thing  you know, we’ll all be replaced by computers as if we’re game show contestants.

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