WPP could change direction if the name doesn't pass legal muster or translate well into the various international locales in which it operates. But according to executives familiar with the matter, it looks like the holding company will lean on a relatively obscure political theory to describe one of the ad world's most closely watched experiments.
WPP won Dell's business late last year and agreed to create from the ground up a dedicated marketing-services agency to handle all of the PC maker's agency needs. The agency will also be allowed to take on other clients.
Lots of meanings
In the context of political theory, synarchy means a lot of things. The Wikipedia entry for synarchy runs through a history of its use including applications in Mexico, China and France. The entry quotes from a book on Vichy France that had an account of French industrialists who saw Nazi Germany as alternative to Communism: "Many of them had extensive and intimate business relations with German interests and were still dreaming of a new system of 'synarchy,' which meant government of Europe on fascist principles by an international brotherhood of financiers and industrialists."
WPP is probably looking for a more felicitous connotation. More generally, synarchy refers to a notion of joint rule, which in the context of Dell could be a far-reaching grab at conveying a sense of discipline or media agnosticism.
If Synarchy doesn't work out, DaVinci will have to turn to a list of other monikers that appear to be have been batted around. Among them: "Sector 64," likely a nod to computing history and 64-bit processors; and "Refute," which, obviously means to disprove or counter. Both of those names were also filed earlier this year with the Trademark Office by WPP Properties Young & Rubicam Inc.
In the meantime, the agency was dubbed "Project DaVinci," chosen because Dell was looking for a marketing partner that, like its namesake, was a blend of artist and scientist, the PC maker's chief marketing officer, Mark Jarvis, told AdAge.com late last year.
Quest for CEO
Establishing a permanent name for the agency surely fits into place a sizeable piece of the puzzle, but there's still the search for a CEO, a process that has been closer to, well, anarchy.
Y&R's Mitch Caplan -- who led the transition as interim CEO -- stepped down several weeks ago; five months after WPP landed Dell's three-year, $4.5 billion marketing contract, and more than two months after the self-imposed official launch date of March 1, the startup currently lacks a chief executive.
Executives familiar with the matter say that the process is close to a wrap, though, with a narrowed field of candidates. It has also assembled a seven-person leadership team beneath the CEO of folks both plucked from within WPP and outside of the holding company. They are: Valerie Hausladen, general manager, Austin; Kelly McGinnis, global corporate communications lead; Matt Rayner, global media lead; Joseph Scangamor, chief operating officer-chief financial officer; Ken Segall, global creative lead; Stephen Sonnenfeld, global consumer lead; and Jeffrey Wilks, president, business solutions group.
The agency has ramped up staffing to half of its 1,000 quotient and began work on its first creative, expected to debut sometime during the fourth quarter of this year.
The name Synarchy was registered by Jeffrey C. Katz, a partner in the trademark and intellectual property group at New York law firm Davis & Gilbert, which represents WPP, according to an April 25 filing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Additionally, a web domain for synarchyworldwide.com has been registered by the same law firm, per online records last month that list as a contact Alison Winter, an associate in Davis & Gilbert's Advertising, Marketing and Promotions Group.
Mr. Katz declined to comment for this story, while Ms. Winter could not be immediately reached.
Representatives for Landor -- which WPP enlisted to help with the identity of the agency, including developing a name and logo -- and Dell could not be immediately reached. A WPP spokesman referred calls to a DaVinci spokesman.