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Brann was a regional British marketing communications agency which under a string of different owners grew unexpectedly into a major global network during the 1990s before being gradually dismantled a few years later. The last remnant of the old network was the UK's Havas EHS, now Havas Helia.
Brann was formed in 1967 by Christian Brann and his wife in the sleepy English country town of Cirencester in Gloucestershire. Brann had previously run Reader's Digest's UK mail order business, and he decided to offer the same skills direct to advertisers. Originally named Christian Brann Ltd, the agency grew steadily but slowly, always stretched for cash. In 1978, Business Intelligence Services Group took a stake, becoming full owners when Brann and his wife retired five years later. (Brann subsequently established a small book publishing company). The Brann agency began to grow more quickly now, adding failed telemarketing company Contact 24 (later Brann Contact) in 1986. The following year Business Intelligence was acquired by Nynex, and the agency changed its name to Brann Direct Marketing. In 1993 the group changed owners again, when Nynex sold it to IT services group ACT. The new relationship didn't work out and the following year, as turnover topped £20m, Brann's management, led by Alan Bigg and Chris Gater, mounted a buyout to go independent again.
The mid-1990s saw rapid growth, with turnover doubling to £40m by 1996. The group opened a London office that year, establishing new spin-off Brann Interactive as one of the UK's leading new media companies. One year later, Snyder Communications bought the group for £48m, then the biggest-ever acquisition of a UK agency. Its founder Dan Snyder saw in Brann a platform for the development of a European marketing business, and funded further acquisitions. In 1998, Brann UK acquired SJA Marketing Services, while Snyder separately purchased Blau Marketing Technologies in the US for around $72m. This was the parent group to Barry Blau & Partners, a small network of direct marketing agencies based in Connecticut, but with offices and affiliations in Europe. Chairman and former owner Barry Blau had a long and distinguished career in direct marketing, including a stint setting up Ogilvy & Mather Direct Response in the 1970s. He had launched his own firm in 1978 and by 1998 Barry Blau was a substantial operation, winning large with clients including IBM and British Telecom.
After several months of planning, all of Snyder Communications' various direct marketing businesses were combined under the Brann name in 1999, creating a worldwide network. At the same time, the group's various new media businesses, including Brann Interactive and Blau Technologies, were separated out and merged to form Circle.com, positioned as a partner to Brann and also to Arnold Communications, Snyder's advertising network. But less than a year later it was all-change once again. Snyder Communications was acquired by Havas advertising, and its constituent parts were divided up between Havas's networks. Brann and Circle.com initially joined the Havas Diversified Agencies Group (DAG). Just over a year later, the agency was realigned once more, following the break-up of DAG. Brann found itself parked instead within Havas's Arnold Worldwide group. At the same time, in a consolidation of Havas's below-the-line portfolio, the UK office of Brann merged with stablemates Evans Hunt Scott and Real Time to form EHS Brann.
In 2001 Advertising Age estimated worldwide billings for Brann of $1.3bn, split evenly between the US and UK, with a small contribution from France. However, the group's biggest account in the US was IBM, and the loss of this business towards the end of 2003 led to the elimination of the US network. The company's American offices were merged with stablemate Euro RSCG Devon Direct and were rebranded in 2004 as Euro RSCG Direct, an arm of new marketing services network 4D.
Evans Hunt Scott was formed in 1986 by David Evans, Terry Hunt and Ken Scott, initially with funding from BMP. Evans left in 1990, and the agency suffered serious financial problems in 1991 before being rescued from bankruptcy by WCRS. This brought it into the fold of what would later become Havas, and the agency briefly adopted the name Evan Hunt Scott Eurocom. The most significant development, however, was an assignment in partnership with another agency, Dunnhumby, to launch Tesco's Clubcard loyalty programme in 1995. This was a huge success and other database-driven assignments followed from clients such as Microsoft, First Direct and United Airlines.
In 2000, EHS absorbed interactive design agency Real Time Studios, becoming ehs:realtime, one of the first combined direct and digital agencies. Ken Scott retired the following year. Further reorganisation of the Havas portfolio led to a merger with the UK arm of Brann Worldwide in 2002. In 2005, the interactive subsidiary of the main Euro RSCG agency, then known as Euro RSCG Interaction, was merged into the interactive department of EHS Brann to form Euro RSCG 4D Digital.
The agency changed its name from EHS Brann to EHS 4D in 2010, severing the last remaining ties with its predecessor. The global rebranding of Euro RSCG in 2012 resulted in another change to Havas EHS. Matt Atkinson stepped down as chief executive of EHS in 2011 to join Tesco, and was replaced by Tash Whitmey. Yet another change came at the beginning of 2015 with the rebranding to Havas Helia.
Last full revision 3rd October 2017
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