If you were launching a new agency today, what would you call it? A group of young social-media marketers in Paris recently went with Kids Love Jetlag, which joins sister agencies Hello, Sunshine and Furious Monkeys as part of France’s eccentric Fred & Farid Group. Since hearing about this new shop, we’ve been thinking a lot about oddly named agencies. Some, like Razorfish and David & Goliath, have become so mainstream, they no longer register as strange. Others, like StrawberryFrog and Barton F. Graf 9000, will probably always seem quirky. So, as an exercise in hilarity, we’ve compiled a ranking of what we consider the weirdest agency names in the advertising business. Check out the list after the jump, then let us know your picks for pre-eminent peculiarity in the comments. (Image above via Alan O’Rourke on Flickr.)
http://www.taxi.ca Location: International, based in Canada
Explanation from the site: “We believe a small team of experts should drive every piece of business—as many as can fit in a cab.”
http://odopod.com Location: San Francisco
Explanation: Reportedly named for Godzilla’s island of Odo and the idea of a compact team, or pod.
http://bonehook.com Location: Portland, Ore.
Explanation: “I wanted to strip what we do down to the bare essentials,” founder David Burn tells AdFreak. “We go out and fish for our dinners, in order to survive. Additionally, I was hoping to convey my love of the Pacific Northwest and native culture.”
37. Big Spaceship
http://www.bigspaceship.com Location: New York
Explanation: In a 2010 interview with iMedia Connection, founder Michael Lebowitz said he liked the name Spaceship for its sense of exploration, but he wanted to add a word, since Spaceship.com was already taken. “We settled on ‘Big’ primarily because it’s inclusive; there is room for everyone on a big spaceship, and it has notes of a mothership.”
http://www.droga5.com Location: International, based in New York
Explanation: Reportedly named for the label that founder David Droga’s mother would stitch into his underwear when he was a child, to clarify which sibling it belonged to.
35. The Bank
http://www.thebank.co.uk Location: International, based in London
Explanation: Named as an ironic homage to a bank whose “ill treatment” the owners blamed for the failure of their previous business, a music production studio.
http://www.razorfish.com Location: International, based in New York
Explanation: Co-founder Jeffrey Dachis reportedly put off selecting a name until he had to open the agency’s first bank account in the mid-1990s. On the spot, he selected Razorfish from a list of 10 brainstormed options.
http://www.nakedcomms.com Location: International, based in London
Founding partner Will Colin tells AdFreak: “We believed that 21st century brands must ‘go Naked’ to the consumer—no longer using communication as an image cloak but instead as an open transaction in which people are equal partners with the brand.”
http://www.wikreate.com Location: San Francisco
Explanation from the site: “Our agency is built on the wiki model: a platform based on collaboration with field experts and associates under unified company and project management.”
http://www.steakdigital.co.uk Location: International, based in London
Explanation: Launched in 2005 by former search-engine employees, Steak set out to help marketers make the most of new digital opportunities. Their mission was “rare medium, well done.”
http://www.welcometocreature.com Location: Seattle
Matt Peterson, principal and creative director, tells AdFreak: “When you say Creature, no two people have the same vision come to them. It’s undefined and often never before seen. That sentiment goes into every project, client and solution we work on. Each its own ‘Creature.’ Each uniquely built to the business issue we are trying to solve. We are the Creature the problem requires. Our name also allows us to become a slightly different company than we were the day before, morphing to new places where creativity is needed.”
29. Lean Mean Fighting Machine
http://www.leanmeanfightingmachine.co.uk Location: London
Explanation: This agency is one of the few to post a list of other names the founders considered. The also-rans included 10-4 Rubber Duckie and You Wouldn’t Like Us When We’re Angry.
28. High Heels & Bananas
http://www.highheelsandbananas.com Location: Philadelphia
Explanation from the site: “The name evolved from three guys and a girl fantasizing about starting their own agency. They wanted a name that was sophisticated, but fun. Something that would get people talking. So, bananas is your funny, high-heels is your sophistication. May not make sense, but it worked.”
27. Blammo Worldwide
http://www.blammo.com Location: Toronto
Explanation: Chairman Alan Gee sent AdFreak some background on the shop’s recent rebranding from the name Gee Jeffery & Partners Advertising: “Blammo stood out to us for a number of reasons. It was surprising and impactful. It felt like that moment when you hit on a fabulous idea and know you’ve hit the bull’s-eye. But most of all, it summed up our philosophy: less Bla (as in boring) and more Ammo (as in bigger and better ideas across the board).”
http://www.omobono.com Location: Cambridge, England
Explanation: Co-founded by a priest, the agency was named for Saint Homobonus, also known as Sant’Omobono. Why they didn’t go with Homobonus, we’ll never know.
25. The Chopping Block
http://choppingblock.com Location: New York
Explanation: Co-founder Thomas Romer says the name came from a brainstorming session for a friend’s recording studio in New York’s Meatpacking District. “I threw out a few meatpacking/studio names that would seem appropriate. There was ‘Meat Sounds Recording Studio,’ ‘Prime Cuts’ and ‘The Chopping Block.’ When I said it, (co-founder Mike Essl’s) eyes perked up and he remarked, ‘That’s good.’ I thought it was pretty clever and fitting for a recording studio, too. Mike said, ‘Yes, but maybe we should take that.’ “
24. Captains of Industry
http://www.captainsofindustry.com Location: Boston
Explanation from the site: “Many people ask, ‘How did you come up with the name?’ After leaving the corporate world, [founder Ted] Page was determined to start a company and felt he needed a memorable name. He went to bed thinking about names, and woke up in the morning with the answer: ‘Captains of Industry!’ The name is yet another example of the power of dreams and the capacity of our minds to be creative when we are unconscious.”
23. The Glue Society
http://www.gluesociety.com Location: Surry Hills, Australia
Explanation: This Australian “creative collective” has generally sidestepped any attempt to define who they are, or even what they do, though they’ve received international acclaim for everything from book design to video production to lingerie ads. Our request for info on their name went unanswered.
http://www.farmcom.co.uk Location: London
Explanation from the site: “When we set up in 1999, we had a simple ambition: to create communications collaboratively. The big agency world was frustrating us. It seemed the work was all about ‘the agency’ and not ‘the idea.’ So we created Farm and a fresh way of working.”
21. Adam & Eve
http://www.adamandevelondon.com Location: London
Explanation: At the time of the agency’s launch in 2008, co-founder James Murphy told Campaign magazine, “Our name reflects the belief that when you bring different talents together, amazing things happen.”
20. Elephants & Ants
http://www.elephantsandants.com Location: Seattle
Explanation: The name is reportedly a reference to the agency’s willingness to work with clients of any size.
19. Victors & Spoils
https://www.victorsandspoils.com Location: Boulder, Colo.
Explanation: The crowdsourcing agency’s brief for a crowdsourced logo included this explanation of the name: “We mean a lot when we say ‘Victors’—multiple winners in the crowdsource community with each project. The brands/clients win. We win. The industry wins. Etc. We also mean a lot when we say ‘Spoils.’ We plan to offer very high prizes for each project. Very good direction from some of the advertising industry’s best creative directors. Multiple prizes for contributors—not winner take all. A ranking system for involvement. A winning submission based on the community’s opinions. And profit sharing. VictorS indeed.”
18. David & Goliath
http://www.dng.com Location: International, based in El Segundo, Calif.
Explanation: Founder David Angelo is the David. The biblical story informs the agency’s ethos. From the site: “The brave take on challenges others might walk away from. They don’t charge blindly into the fray, but rather arm themselves with intelligence and creativity in order to outwit, outwork, and outlast the opposition.”
17. For Office Use Only
http://forofficeuseonly.com Location: New York
Explanation: Creative director Anh Tuan Pham sent AdFreak this backstory on the shop he founded: “When I first decided to establish my design business as a corporation I, of course, needed to give it a name and didn’t want to use my own. I went through many possibilities but nothing felt right. At the time I had a website that showed my more personal/non-commercial work, and I realized what I needed was a portfolio site that would just show my commercial work only, and from that thought came the name ‘For Office Use Only.’ It really was somewhat accidental, as it wasn’t a name I ‘worked’ on, it just came to me when I was trying to describe my situation.”
http://www.walrusnyc.com Location: New York
Explanation: Our calls to this agency went unanswered. But as you can see from the website, they’ve embraced the animal quite thoroughly.
http://www.motherlondon.com Location: International, based in London
Explanation: “The name ‘Mother’ basically came out of a focus group in the general public,” co-founder Paul Malmstrom tells AdFreak. “Sixteen different tests were done around a randomly generated set of words, and all groups (except one) settled for ‘Mother’ as a top contender. The tests showed ‘Mother’ had pretty positive associations, ranging from ‘Nurturing,’ ‘Familiar’ to ‘Don’t eat with your mouth open.’ To the founders this seemed to be great values to base the agency on. Words not rated as high were, for example, ‘Wallet,’ ‘Meager’ and ‘Clogs,’ but a close runner-up was (inexplicably) the word ‘Wienerschnitzel.’ “
http://mistresscreative.com Location: Los Angeles
Explanation: “Our name comes straight out of our positioning,” co-founder Christian Jacobsen tells AdFreak. “It’s an open admission that we’re not just out to marry up with brands looking for an ad maintenance AOR. We exist to reinvigorate brands with fresh perspective and head-turning creative product. If it’s as AOR, that’s great, but we’re also perfectly comfortable with projects if the situation is right and we think both we and the client will have some fun together.”
http://www.gmplumbing.com Location: Redondo Beach, Calif.
Explanation from the site: Glenn Miller and Mickey Taylor “chose the name ‘Plumbing’ because in the early days they operated solely as a resource for clients who needed strategic and creative help at a moment’s notice,” says the website. “They saw the agency as the marketing equivalent of a dependable plumber. The project work they did for their clients quickly evolved into long-term marketing partner relationships … but their vision was and still is very simple—to build and maintain a powerful lineup of highly creative, objectives-driven, intensely competitive people who share an enthusiasm for great ideas.”
http://www.moosylvania.com Location: St. Louis
Explanation: Founder Norty Cohen tells AdFreak: “In 1962, Jay Ward, who created Rocky and Bullwinkle, had a brilliant idea to tour the U.S. in a van painted up with thematic promotion about the show. At each stop, Jay, his publicist and a character in a Bullwinkle outfit got out and solicited signatures for statehood for Moosylvania. They drove onto the White House lawn in November of that year—and during that tense time (the Cuban Missile Crisis), they jumped out and yelled, ‘We demand statehood for Moosylvania.’ The guards pulled their guns and told them to go away, and they never achieved statehood. When we were getting ready to form our agency in 2003, we needed statehood for our independent agency and formed Moosylvania. After that, we bought a church and now house 100 people in it—and fondly call it the Embassy of the Republic of Moosylvania.”
11. The Barbarian Group
http://barbariangroup.com Location: New York, Boston, San Francisco
Explanation: Barbarian co-founder Benjamin Palmer emailed AdFreak this summary of how the name came about: “We were having a brainstorming meeting about what to name our company, and a couple of my partners (Keith Butters and Rick Webb) were, I thought, suggesting names for the company and said, ‘Barbarians are sooo hard to defeat,’ and I was like ‘THATS IT.’ They were actually talking about the latest version of the game Civilization that had just come out and has some barbarians that are hard to defeat in it, but it seemed like a good name for us.”
http://www.omeletla.com Location: Los Angeles
Explanation: “We just wanted to find a name that would resonate with clients, press, friends, family, etc., that could mean something different and special to every person,” CMO Ryan Fey told iMedia Connection. While sitting at a diner, one of the founders praised the omelet as “the king of breakfast,” and the team obviously agreed.
9. Big Kitty Labs
http://bigkittylabs.com Location: Columbus, Ohio
Explanation: Founder Dan Rockwell sent us a lengthy summary of the name, which we’ve trimmed down a bit for you: “Well, the name is based off my wife’s cat, who is named Otis, yet it’s a girl, they thought it was a boy when they first got her. She’s a beautiful cat, yet mean as hell. I had to pet her with an oven mitt for a year or so before she’d let me pet her any other way. As for why naming the biz after her, and why Big Kitty Labs? My first startup was all by the numbers, hard core let’s do biz camp, and of course it was an epic fail. When I left that behind, I wanted to be much more rapid with my ideas and set the bar as low as a cat, who’s mainly just curious enough to make something for the heck of it. I also wanted to create a brand that didn’t take itself too seriously, and I wanted it to be iconic.”
8. Hello Viking
http://helloviking.com Location: Minneapolis
Explanation: Co-founder and CEO Tim Brunelle emailed AdFreak this summary of how the name came about: “The name Hello Viking came very, very quickly—we needed to put something on a bank form so we could complete incorporation and get paid for our first project. And like all important decisions, we procrastinated. Since Jennifer Iwanicki, Aubrey Anderson and I (the three founders of Hello Viking) are musicians, we approached naming our company like we were naming a new band. At one point, Aubrey and I were extolling our mutual Scandinavian heritage, using the word “Viking” as a verb, as in, “That is so Viking!” Then Jennifer said she really liked the word “hello” because it connoted conversation. We put those two words together—which triggered the rush to see if HelloViking.com was available (it was!) and that sealed it—the birth of our company’s name.”
7. High Wide & Handsome
http://www.highwidehandsome.com Location: Venice, Calif.
Explanation from the site: “The first known use of the phrase ‘high, wide and handsome’ appeared in the Bucks County Gazette, November 1881: ‘Among the many improvements on Market Street, few are so conspicuous as the high, wide and handsome building on the corner of Eighth Street.’ Since then, the expression has commonly been used in auto-racing circles to describe a particularly aggressive style of driving. (Little known fact: High, Wide and Handsome was the original title of the Will Ferrell movie Talladega Nights.) It’s also the name of a 2009 Grammy-winning folk album by Loudon Wainwright III. To us, though, it’s come to represent a resourceful, relentless and utterly comprehensive approach to accomplishing a task. As we like to say, ‘Hold nothing back … go high, wide and handsome.’ “
6. Barton F. Graf 9000
http://www.bfg9000ny.com Location: New York
Explanation from the site: “It’s named after (founder) Gerry Graf’s father and the BFG9000 gun from the video game Doom, in case you were wondering.”
5. Kids Love Jetlag
http://kidslovejetlag.com Location: Paris
Explanation: This new agency in the Fred & Farid Group is made up of about two dozen young social-media addicts with a relatively high level of influence per sites like Klout. The meaning of the name is obscure, but evokes youth, giddiness and international travel.
4. Pocket Hercules
http://www.pockethercules.com Location: Minneapolis
Explanation from the site: “The term Pocket Hercules has been used throughout history to describe larger-than-life heroes in surprisingly small frames. Perhaps the most famous was Naim Suleymanoglu from Turkey, who has been hailed as the greatest weightlifter of all times. He stood just 4 feet 11 inches tall, yet he could lift nearly three times his body weight of 141 pounds. Being an award-winning ad agency in a world of giants, we’re a lot like Mr. Suleymanaglu: small but powerful.” (Oh, and check out their launch video.)
http://www.strawberryfrog.com Location: International, based in New York
Explanation: According to an article in India’s Economic Times, agency founder Scott Goodson picked the name to be the antithesis of the agency “dinosaurs” on Madison Avenue: “Unlike the dinosaurs of old, the strawberry frog was incredibly effective. It could take you out if you licked it. It has a red body with blue legs—a radical with blue jeans.”
http://www.72andsunny.com Location: Los Angeles and Amsterdam
Explanation: Agency president John Boiler emailed this perspective on the name to AdFreak: “We’re serial optimists. So, the name has less to do with the awesome state of our climate [in L.A.] than it does about how we approach clients, problems and the world. We tend to see the opportunity in things. And we try to foster a culture for our clients and ourselves that is as open, healthy and happy as we can make it.”
1. Wexley School for Girls
http://www.wexley.com Location: Seattle
Explanation: Was it named for a “fully integrated” nunnery that grew cantaloupes in Wexleyshire, England? Or maybe for the secret cheerleader burial ground on which its building was constructed? Sadly, neither, although Wexley School for Girls executives have offered those and countless other explanations for the name over the years. Now, for the first time, co-founder Ian Cohen reveals the truth to AdFreak: They picked a name from a phone book. The name was actually Wesley, but when one of the founders said it out loud, another misheard it as Wexley. Then, as a lark, they tacked on “School for Girls,” and a legacy of oddness was born.
It just came out accidentally, and it just sounded right and fun, Cohen says. “It had the energy we’d like to be around all day.”
The name has been a mixed blessing for the shop. It can both fascinate and alienate potential clients. “We’ve talked about writing a book called Deflecting Business by the Billions with Your Name,” Cohen says. “We’re certain it turns off a lot of people in the business world.” But it also helps the experimental agency find clients who are willing to take the inherent risks of being on the cutting edge. “When people are looking at four or five agencies, our name always sticks,” Cohen says, “We always are told, ‘I had to call you; I had to see what this was about.’ “
Cohen’s advice for those looking to name an agency? “Come up with something you truly love living with. I love this name. That’s the thing about creating something that doesn’t have a real meaning behind it. We keep exploring it and building our brand.”
So, which names did we miss? Which are your favorites? Let us know in the comments.
Epilogue: Great but retired agency names
• Kowloon Wholesale Seafood Co. (now Secret Weapon Marketing)
• 86 the onions
• Mad Dogs & Englishmen
• WongDoody (now Wong, Doody, Crandall, Wiener, which is still pretty funny)
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