Ex-Engage by Bell Pottinger trio launch Pembroke and Rye

Pembroke and Rye, a new agency formed by three former senior staff of Engage by Bell Pottinger, launches publicly this month.

(L-R): Read, Naylor-Leyland and Hampton
(L-R): Read, Naylor-Leyland and Hampton

Pembroke and Rye was set up in the Autumn by Kevin Read, Victoria Naylor-Leyland and Charlie Hampton. The ownership of the business is one third each.

Read, who takes the post of CEO, was chair of the consumer and brand practice Engage, which launched in January 2017. Naylor-Leyland, who is chief development officer, was the Engage division's head of creative and content. Hampton lead its Qatar Airways account and is chief client officer of the new agency.

The agency already has three employees and two senior figures working as advisers - the trio say these are a mix of former Bell Pottinger employees and new colleagues. It has moved into a permanent office in Victoria and is hosting a launch event next week. 

The trio say they have 15 clients on their books, across b2b, financial and professional services, aerospace and travel, and wealth management - these include Reed Exhibitions and tour operator Canadian Affair. Nearly half are new clients as opposed to ones brought over from their previous employer, according to Naylor-Leyland.

Read says that having had the Engage branding made it "easier to have positive conversations" with new and ongoing clients when setting up the new agency after Bell Pottinger's collapse, but added: "It's very much down to the individual relationship."

The firm has become a member of the PRCA, the body which had expelled Bell Pottinger, triggering its decline, with Read telling PRWeek: "It's important to us that we are seen as part of the industry."

Read is a former PRCA board member, who stepped down from that post last year. He was also the subject of a complaint to the CIPR around Bell Pottinger's South African activities, but this was dropped and Read says he and his fellow Pembroke and Rye founders had no involvement in the account in question. 

Industry outlook

Looking at the health of the industry and the crowded London agency market, Read argued that those who can prove ROI will remain in demand.

"I think now is the most difficult time for marketing directors... they’re being assessed on every pound they spend; did this achieve, what did that earn," he said, commenting that marketing leaders are increasingly seeking "evidence that every pound is working" when buying services.

He also said that looking at Davos and elsewhere, he felt that CEOs were feeling "under pressure" to demonstrate leadership on social issues and to run meaningful CSR programmes. "Budgets for pure reputational work is often very close to the top of an organisation - I think there will be more budget around to allow CEOs to make those statements of what they are doing," Read said.

Read next: Twenty-three former Bell Pottinger staff form new Pagefield sister agency

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