WPP'S 'Synarchy' Name Choice Sparks Sneers

Blogosphere Abuzz With Criticism Over Roots of Controversial Word

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- WPP Group's decision to choose Synarchy as the likely name for the new agency being built to handle its Dell account prompted anarchy in the blogosphere.

As Ad Age reported May 13, WPP and its branding, firm Landor Associates, were leaning toward the term -- one of several they had trademarked. Synarchy has Greek roots and means "joint rule," a reference to WPP and Dell's commitment last December to building a global-marketing service from the ground up. But given its other connotations, "Synarchy" has made for a controversial choice.

In the context of political theory, synarchy refers to a utopian system cooked up in the 18th century. Its Wikipedia entry runs through a history of its applications across the world and quotes from a book on Vichy, France, an account of French industrialists who saw Nazi Germany as an 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."

Alexandre Saint-Yves d'Alveydre, an occultist, also used the word "synarchy" to describe a form of government where political power effectively rests with secret societies or, more precisely, esoteric societies, which are composed of oracles, the Wiki entry says.

18th century monkier
WPP and Landor want to replace the temporary moniker, "Project DaVinci," chosen because Dell was looking for a marketing partner that, like namesake Leonardo, was a blend of artist and scientist. But reports of the name Synarchy went over about as well as eyebrows on the "Mona Lisa." Across the board, the commentary was harsh. On ad blogger George Parker's ranterrific site AdScam/The Horror, commenter HighJive wrote: "DaVinci was not a great name either. But Synarchy is worse. If this is such a bold, new enterprise, why take a name coined in the 18th century?"

"Did it not occur to these people not to have fucking checked all this stuff before discovering its links with Nazi Germany and thrash-metal bands?" posted user PopGoesTheWeasel.

The name Synarchy "captures the utopian naiveté and foolish arrogance that led Dell and WPP to believe that the ideal agency could be built for one client in a matter of months," wrote a commenter from Texas on AdAge.com.

All the buzz set the joint WPP-Dell PR machine into a frenzy, with a DaVinci spokesman writing on a number of blogs some version of the following statement: "Synarchy is one of several names under consideration, but a final decision has not yet been made."

'Czarchastic Intergalactic'
That only prompted bloggers to use the opportunity to dream up smart-alecky suggestions of their own, like "SynVinci," "Dellarchy, "Syllie Global," "Czarchastic Intergalactic" and "Wire & Plastic Product." Adomatica, a marketing and technology blog, launched a contest asking readers to submit alternatives and will crown a winner next week.

Whether public opinion will sway the final decision remains to be seen. Dell has made an effort to engage consumers by listening to and participating in conversations about the brand. However, it's not clear whether it will ultimately shrug off the opinions when it comes to its new agency.

Meanwhile WPP is wrangling with other important considerations regarding the agency's identity. The holding company could change direction if the name doesn't pass legal muster or translate well into the various international locales in which it operates. Finding the best possible domain name for the new agency's website is also a key issue, executives said.

For now, the name Synarchy has been registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by law firm Davis & Gilbert, which represents WPP. A web domain for synarchyworldwide.com has been registered by the same law firm, per online records.
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