You see these companies’ names all the time, but how did they get them?
Scan over the company names on the APA’s list of members and you’ll learn why so many people want to get into the creative industries. Sure, a couple have simply slapped the founders names above the door and there’s nothing wrong with that, but the majority have bizarre names that defy any good sense of professionalism.
The stories behind these monikers are no doubt a rich vein of entertainment, so the following is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are some of the tales behind how companies in advertising got their names.
Disclaimer: for the purposes of entertainment and lack of editorial rigor, some of these stories may be false. But we wouldn’t want the truth to get in the way of a good story, would we?
James Bradley, Managing Partner: “In 1998 we spent months thinking of what to call our studios. On my computer I had almost 2000 potential names.
Then the inevitable happened and my machine crashed. I managed to salvage a few potentials like 6000 Mexicans and headed to a crunch meeting with the bad tidings and the knowledge that we had to come up with a name that day for marketing and publicity purposes.
After an hour of getting nowhere one of us spotted a paperback version of The Right Stuff based on Chuck Yeager's attempt to break the sound barrier with a jet.
The question then arose, what is the speed of sound?
The answer, depending on the dryness of the air, altitude and temperature, was 750mph. We had found our name.
A few phone calls to trusted mates received a thumbs up and we have been travelling at the speed of sound ever since.”
“When first forming the company we realised that all of the staff members were involved with sailing. We had an ex tug boat captain, a deep-sea diver, two pirates and three who had appeared in several episodes of Baywatch.
On one of our bi-annual trips to Butlins in Bognor Regis, we all decided to go for a late night swim. Little did we know it was hurricane season and we were washed out to sea. By an incredible stroke of luck or, dare I say, fate, in the distance we saw a Big Buoy and we were saved.
Hence the name was born.
We lost three that night, they went back to Baywatch, I miss the Hoff. He was a great flame op.”
James Studholme, Managing Director: “Blink was born sometime in 1985. The child of Bob Lawrie, a tiny irascible antipodean graphic genius, Blink was quite definitely an animation company back then.
Bob had left Australia in the mid sixties at the age of 18 to seek fame and fortune in the UK, having become the biggest thing in book jacket design in Sydney.
It was B for Bob and L for Lawrie in Blink, with the ink part being a pun on the principle of film making and the inky nature of graphic design and animation.
I joined him later that same year. Our office was at 18 Archer Street Works (a Soho street shady on both sides). Our studio had been purpose built to service the music industry in the days when every theatre, club or bar had live music. Musicians would congregate in the afternoon hoping to catch the eye of a bandleader with work for that evening. The Works were where they got their instruments mended.”
Eva Custers, Marketing & Communication: “Our name reflected our desire to use a word that would pretty much be understood in an international context. In that sense we were both very ambitious and somewhat arrogant too.
We also thought that starting with a "C" would put us fairly high up in alphabetical directories, see? Practical and arrogant, truly the best of both worlds.
And lastly we wanted to convey immediately how exceptional our company was. For us the word caviar conjured a sense of uniqueness and sophistication that we felt represented perfectly the kind of work we wanted to do.”
Matt Brown, Managing Director / Executive Producer: “So after working through 1500 names we narrowed it down to things like Blacklight and Dark Matter, for all of which the domain names were taken. Then my wife said ‘what about Dark Energy?’
My initial reaction was no. I’d never heard of it, then I thought ‘hang on – I like it.’ I went onto Google and looked it up and to my surprise read this: In astronomy, dark energy is a hypothetical form of energy which permeates all of space and tends to accelerate the expansion of the universe. Dark energy is the most accepted hypothesis to explain the observations since the 1990s indicating that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate. The universe contains 26.8% dark matter, 4.9% ordinary matter and 68.3% dark energy. So in short it is this little known substance, which is in fact incredibly important and everywhere.
On the day I registered the company I saw an article online saying ‘finally it looks like we have proof of the existence of Dark Energy’ and they were right!”
Dom Murgia, Managing Director: “I was asked to come up with a name for a new production company and suddenly from nowhere, the word Doofer popped into my head.
I thought it was kind of relevant to our industry in that in the north west of England it can mean TV remote control... It wasn't until I checked out the urban dictionary that I realised it has many meanings, depending where you are in the world.
John Hassay, Executive Producer: “Our moment of conception came as an industry leader remarked to me that commercial production companies existed to shit out golden eggs for their owners.Immediately I thought Golden Egg would make a great name for a production company.
After an abortive experience trying to get it up and running with a resolutely bad egg I realised that it was actually more than a little hubristic and I needed to think more carefully about the people I wanted to work with.
From there the process was simple. Good Egg is a phrase I used to bestow compliments on the best of friends; people who quietly go out of their way to help. It’s about loyalty, hard work, seeing the process through and, like my first company, Colonel Blimp, it reflects the very best of British.”
Carole Humphrey, Founder / Managing Director: “Grand Central Recording Studios is named after Grand Central station, which is an important New York transport hub.
I wanted us to be a hub of activity and delivery. Naming a facility after an iconic, beautiful building in America seemed aspirational and exciting.
Our studios in Marshall St had a central reception area, and the 4 studios, Xfer and offices came off that - like a concourse with platforms coming off it in a square. It was a brilliant design and working space. It made for a busy and social facility.
Our letterhead had the windows from Grand Central on it and we commissioned someone to take some photos of Grand Central that were in reception for 10 years.”
Ellie Botwood, Head of New Business: “The animation company now famously called Evil, came to light after the company was searching for a new "iconic" name. Being friends with Mark Denton, Evil asked the creative director and advertising guru if he could help with a new identity. In true Denton-esque style, Mark embraced the creative circuit and they all sat down one night for beers and a good old fashioned "gang bang" (Mark's words not ours...) to come up with a new name. Names such as Chinese Burn Masters & Superwinners were hot favourites but it was when someone said A Large Evil Corporation did everyone sit up and take notice.
What started off as a hilarious joke quickly became a reality and quickly followed Evil branding in terms of books and postcards and posters not to mention Evil branded dollar bill business notes. It still makes us chuckle that A Large Evil Corporation is actually a lovely and small animation company in the beautiful town of Bath. However, Evil are now a household name and have recently finished the Xmas campaign for Sky (an actual Large Evil Corporation) and their Evil Vinyl toy designs have caught the eye of very very Large Evil Corporation's in the US so perhaps the Evil dream will come true someday in the near future...
And so the Evil brand was born.”
Matt Fone, President: “It’s hard thinking of a good name – one that cuts through, one that you have a empathy to. I always liked the film, the Peanuts character and the feeling it gave me: Me Vs. the rest.
And then my six-year-old kid drew the logo and I thought “I like that!” It suddenly became something other than what I thought; it became something else, which is the best part – something of its own.
Just have to make sure I don't fuck it up…”
Tim Nash, Managing Director [in an entry from their blog]: “Anyone who’s ever started a company will have faced the task of naming that company. It’s a tortuous journey. Our company was nearly called so many shit names, vacillating between the pretentious and the plain retarded. Architecture. Chapters. PFB. High Rise. God Speed. Unknown Pleasures. Work Makes You Free. Sun Ra. The Golden Bough. Atrocity. Blah blah.
One thing we all agreed on was that we liked books. And writing. So for about a day we were called I’d Prefer Not To after Bartleby the Scrivener’s famous dictum. But then common sense prevailed: I’d Prefer Not To was probably not sending out the right message for a new shop opening in the height of a recession.
Sally and I are big fans of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. There’s a great passage where Huck and Jim meet a pair of grifters called the Duke and King. They’re down and dirty swindlers. Confidence tricksters. They throw a sham play called The Royal Nonesuch to try and make some cash. So for about a week our fledgling production company was called The Royal Nonesuch. We tried to register the name with Companies House and were quickly informed that to be Royal anything we’d need a letter from the Ministry of Defence and the Queen’s consent. This left us with Nonesuch films, but we eventually reasoned that Nonesuch Records would take a dim view of it, especially given their litigious reputation.
One morning Sally [Campbell, Executive Producer] said, ‘What about Somesuch?’ Somesuch. Some. Such. Hmmm. I liked the sibilance. It was a nice word to say. Well, not really a proper word. More of a nonsense. But it felt good in my mouth. Somesuch. I thought it sounded like what an Atlanta based hip hop label would call themselves. Somesuch Entertainment Inc. We’d have a logo designed by Pen and Pixel and sip lean all day. But Sally loves ampersands. So we had to have an &/And. And the &/And was quickly followed by Co. It made us feel reliable, like those old menswear shops on Jermyn Street. Somesuch & Co. Like a long standing family business, rather than a company started on a credit card, some borrowed desks, and a wing and a prayer.
After a while you grow into your name. It feels as though you could never have been called anything else. And of course, much to our annoyance, no one ever used the &/And Co. It was always just Somesuch. Hello Somesuch.
Now the &/And feels like a hipster affectation. Suddenly everything seems to be &/And bloody something.
Our new website [launched in August]. We’re fucking off the &/And Co. From now on it’s just plain old Somesuch.
The new website has a section called Stories. It’s a platform for long form fiction and non-fiction. We’ll be launching a new story every Sunday.
In the end it always comes back to writing.”
“Why Ten Three? Well we actually prefer tenthree. The name was born in the most unlikely of places far away from the manicured edit suites of Soho. This is a tale of shattered dreams and broken bones set in the mud and sweat of Kingsmeadow playing fields.
tenthree’s founder, Billy Mead, used to moonlight as a professional footballer but his career was cut painful short by a double compound fracture of his tibia and fibula. For those without a degree in anatomy and physiology that basically means he snapped his shin in half and the bone came out of the skin. That fateful moment occurred on 10th March, or the tenth day of the third month of the year, or tenthree. It marked the end of his aspirations on the football pitch and in turn ignited his passion for editing.”