Not a lot of babies will be named Joan in 2016. Once a consistent high-performer on most-popular baby name lists, making the top 10 throughout the 1930s and staying in the top 50 until the early 1960s, Joan hasn’t ranked among the top 1,000 for more than a decade, according to Nameberry.com. It’s about as cool these days as Phyllis, Ethel or Pam (sorry, Mom).
Yet it is somehow the most awesome agency name to come along in years. Two powerful women — Jaime Robinson, a former ECD from Wieden+Kennedy New York and Pereira & O’Dell, and Lisa Clunie, former COO for Refinery29 — chose it as the name of their new shop opening in New York this week. Why? To honor "all of the Joans throughout history who have brought big changes to the world — from reshaping rock and roll; transforming comedy; putting a new face on protests in the ‘60s; and, of course, the Joan who triumphed on the French battlefield," they said in a release. (That would be Jett, Rivers, Baez and "of Arc.")
And though they say they didn’t watch the show, the name can’t help but call to mind Joan from "Mad Men," who ended the series launching her own agency. You could do worse than to have your creative shop remind people of that character.
You know who else chose a new agency name this week? Industry legend George Lois. The name he chose is Lois TransMedia, Big Idea Advertising and Public Relations. It isn’t exactly magic.
For a creative industry, advertising can claim very few bad-ass company names. Too many sound like legal firms, even when the democratic process is involved. When founders do go the nontraditional route, they can sound like they’re trying too hard — and such names tend not to age well. Recall some of the wacky names of the early 2000s and try not to cringe.
"Joan" projects confidence. It’s the opposite of trendy. It suggests a sense of humor that doesn’t care if you laugh. It resists meaningless add-ons like "and Partners" that too many small shops use to imply size or gravitas.
And at a time when the agency world is doing some serious reflection on its treatment of women, it is unabashedly female. Joan. Who would not want these women to work on their business?
Joan opens with a single client, General Mills, and a plan to donate a portion of its profits to charitable causes. Its founders have already established the Joan Foundation of Diversity. They will give every employee an ownership stake in the company.
I have no idea if Joan will do good work. Hell, it may not be around in six months. But Robinson and Clunie deserve credit for raising the naming game in advertising. It’s not too late, Mr. Lois, and "George" is still available.