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Y&R SF Opens Branding Unit

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Young and Rubicam here has opened a new branding division—a move expected to help the shop cast a wider net for new clients while also bringing fresh talent and perspective to the agency.

The new unit has been launched with six employees, but Y&R's CEO Austin McGhie said that number will likely grow. The branding initiative is projected to bill roughly $2 million next year, but McGhie predicted that figure will also rise.

Angela Pih, vp and partner of Y&R branding, said the new division will ''create an entirely new category,'' in the agency.

Pih said those recruited for the group will have different backgrounds than traditional agency hires. Many will have prior experience on the client side.

"We want to bring together a group with plenty of experience they can bring into a client's realm,'' Pih said.

''Its not just about brand positioning. The people here are an eclectic mix of marketers who can think through strategy for our clients.''

Pih said the branding group will be housed in the agency at first but could eventually move to its own location—if the clients follow.

''There is an expectation that we will do business with more agencies at an earlier stage than a traditional agency might,'' she said. ''What we're saying is you can have access to experienced brand people who get it right when it matters most.''

McGhie noted that a unit devoted to branding has been working at the agency for nearly a year. The creation of a dedicated unit, he added, will formalize the setup.

The focus on branding was largely triggered by the two agency clients—Kovad and Investors Business Daily—which initially came for brand consulting and eventually picked Y&R for their ad work.

McGhie said the next step will be to hire more management, ideally more senior partners.

''We will continue to build a group of peers and gather a group of experienced brand builders who understand how things are done today,'' he added.

McGhie said the agency would encourage brand clients to hire Y&R for ad work. But he said the division will also be receptive to firms already with an ad agency. ''It really is a stand-alone unit.''

Pih, who will head the division, formerly worked at Y&R in Asia and also as a consultant for dot-com startups and digital companies.