Life without Lynne Franks

`Ab Fab' brought fame to the most successful fashion PR company in England. But now it is absolutely serious about changing its name and burying its founder. By Emma Cook

Think Lynne Franks PR, sweetie, and what does it conjure up? The most successful fashion PR company in England? Yes, probably. But a few other things spring to mind first and the problem is, they're nearly all to do with the founder. Once the Jennifer Saunders version had taken hold, it was hard not to think of the more farcical aspects that have become a shorthand for the high-octane, fashion PR lifestyle; air kissing, shopping sprees, Tibetan Buddhist chanting and any number of toe-curling spiritual New Age fads.

Then there's the really flaky stuff that Franks has supposedly dabbled in, searching for elusive inner peace; making a urine circle on a hilltop, being massaged naked on a stone slab in California and attending menstruating rituals. It's legendary antics like these that ensure Franks' personality still defines her PR product. It matters little that the woman behind one of the most high-profile PR companies actually left five years ago and is now a non-executive director.

Yet perhaps her tastes and images don't sit quite so easily with the real business of Lynne Franks PR today; which includes working for such sober, "unsexy" clients as Abbey National and Merseyside Development Corporation. It's easy to imagine the company's occasional collective cringe of embarrassment like Edina's daughter Saffy in Ab Fab every time mummy tries out another eccentric New Age cure. Like sensible Saffy, the company is rather more serious-minded these days.

This must surely be a deciding factor behind their decision to rename themselves "Life PR". As well as being a bit of a mission statement, it's also an acronym. L to pay homage to Lynne Franks' legacy, I for influencer, F for futures and E for exposure. Still, it's quite a drastic brand change, one that any successful business wouldn't dream of doing unless they felt it was absolutely necessary like, say, Gerald Ratner. Surely Lynne Franks can't be that much of a liability. Stefano Hatfield, editor of Campaign magazine, says tactfully: "Like lots of very strongly branded entities, you can become a victim of your own success; if your image becomes inappropriate to the times, you can find it very difficult to shrug off." He adds: "The froth and bubble doesn't help you with the more sober clients."

Samantha Royston, chief executive of Life PR, is diplomatic about their reasons for ditching such an infamous heritage. But then she would be - that's her job. Perched on a purple designer sofa in her funky designer office, it's clear the 32-year-old Royston, who's been with the company for 11 years, is trying to do things differently. Like her predecessor, she fizzes over with hyper-enthusiasm and when she says things like: "We're really excited about where the company's going at the moment" you can tell she actually is. But that's where the similarity ends - Royston is less of an idiosyncratic personality, more a team worker. "Things have massively moved away from the person that was right for the Eighties. Now we've got different values," she says. "To be a `personality' is not what I'm about, or what the company's about. We're a team of people trying to work together."

Since Lynne took a back seat five years ago, it seems strange that they've waited so long to remarket themselves. "When a company's not doing well, the idea of change is very attractive," says Royston. "But we have been doing well, so we've kind of resisted that change. Now, though, we want to focus on other areas we're particularly interested in."

Yet it was the "personality" that fuelled the success of Lynne Franks PR, so much so that the hype was always greater than the business itself. As Hatfield says: "They were never big players in the market, but they were a big noise. They had `sexy' clients and did the glamour stuff."

As a memorable brand, it's hard to imagine Life PR having quite such a resonant impact, but that's probably the point. Maybe it's worth the risk of initial anonymity if it means losing the Ab Fab tag. Royston says: "At the time of Ab Fab, it was a double-edged sword. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't very positive. It was fun, we laughed at it and with it. But," she says, suddenly sounding terribly grown-up, "it's necessary to let the world know that we're not about Ab Fab any more. That was about being frothy and wacky. What we're about is a lot more substance. It's kind of growing-up."

Royston's persuasive but it's hard to believe they've changed that much when you take a peek around their trendy west London offices. They're gearing up to London Fashion Week and you could cut the buzz in the atmosphere with a Blahnik stiletto heel. Still, Royston is keen to stress their serious credentials, and hopes the new Influencer and Futures division, launched next week, will cut through the fluff. She explains: "The units are about identifying trends as they are being born. Then we track those trends through the media to see how they develop."

Their approach differs from conventional market research wisdom. "Most research is based on figures, data and sterile consumer groups. We're much more immersed in street culture, going out there and identifying trends as they happen," she explains. "Then predicting which ones will last." At the moment they are working with the night-club Cream, getting young clubbers to photograph the latest fads in watches, trainers or whatever.

So will they pinpoint the emergence of cultural groups like, say, the rise of the female thirtysomething Lone Ranger? Royston seems less sure. The units are so new, she says, it's hard to give specific examples. Instead she talks about Chanel's Rouge Noir nail polish - "Chanel sold a few limited editions in New York that were picked up on the street. A stylist saw it and thought, `that's fab' and used it on Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction, and then a trend was born. That's what our Futures division does; tracks it from the street to the Influencer then the mainstream." It's not exactly Demos, but then that's not what their clients want. Lynne Franks PR was never about dry statistics or hefty intellectual forecasts - Life PR certainly won't be either.

We are interrupted by Royston's assistant who asks if we'd like more tea. "Fab", she says brightly, and whisks off to a soundtrack of dance music. For the foreseeable future, it's going to need more than a name change to take the Lynne Franks out of Lifen

A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman,; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith,
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Data Analytics Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading organisation...

Accountant / Assistant Management Accountant

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an Assistant Management Ac...

Data Scientist

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A data analytics are currently looking t...

Insight Analyst Vacancy - Leading Marketing Agency

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading marketing agency have won a fe...

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup