The mysterious cloud surrounding Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R’s new offering Swarm has begun to lift following months of speculation. RKCR has at last come clean about the existence of the agency, although it remains tight-lipped over Swarm’s launch client BT.
Swarm has also been linked with the UK portion of the Alfa Romeo account, formerly handled by WPP network United. WPP denies this association, saying the account cannot be lodged there, and that it is instead seeking a Team Alfa solution across Europe for the £50m business. The two certain things about the Alfa account are that Ford, which dwarfs Alfa’s spend at WPP, would have a view on the account move (RKCR, for example, handles Ford’s Land Rover marque); and that Alfa has indeed left United, though the account remains within the WPP organisation.
Why RKCR has moved its BT business-to-business account into Swarm (MW last week) is also a bit of a mystery. One source claims the move was triggered by an impending conflict.
A selective service
It has been suggested that RKCR had been pitching for Cisco but chief executive James Murphy denies this. It is also true that one of RKCR’s biggest clients is Virgin. The establishment of Virgin Media last November might, at some point, bring it into conflict with BT, which harbours its own televisual ambitions with BT Vision. It should be noted, however, that the Swarm BT account is business-to-business.
Murphy claims that Swarm is a bespoke unit that has been set up to offer a through-the-line solution to its clients. "As an agency we need to grow, and instead of buying specialist skills agencies we are trying for a more organic approach," adds Murphy. "Swarm will be one of many offerings from our agency." It is thought that a digital shop will be next in this line-up with all the different divisions financially reporting to Murphy.
Sting in the tale
However, RKCR’s renewed focus on integration fails to win approval from critics, who say that the launch of Swarm exposes how "very little business" is shared between the advertising agency and its direct marketing sister Harrison Troughton Wunderman (HTW), which is housed in the same building.
For Murphy, Swarm represents an opportunity to "broaden" the agency’s offering. He is loathe to use the term "conflict agency" and adds: "We have been driven by our clients’ needs to come up with specialised offerings within the agency, which will be best served by setting up a series of custom-built units within the agency."
The agency’s chief operating officer, Tony Harris, who helped set up Swarm, adds: "The launch will keep up with the momentum of how things are going at the agency. We have been winning a great deal of business, and now the next stage for us is to experiment with new ventures such as Swarm." The new agency, under the stewardship of RKCR deputy planning director Ben Kay and group account director Rupert Williams, plans to pitch for new business in the future.
One industry source says: "The difference between a conflict agency and a secondary agency lies in its positioning. Swarm looks and feels like a conflict agency and if it is being promoted as a second-string agency then fighting for new business might prove to be tough. Secondary agencies only tend to work with smaller clients."
For an agency that has a client list covering most sectors, Swarm might be the answer to that age-old problem of client conflict.