Engine is the London-based full service agency known until 2019 as WCRS. It has a long and turbulent history under a succession of different owners, tracing its roots back to the late 1980s, when - under the name Aegis - it aspired to become one of the world's largest marketing groups. The WCRS international network was later split out to form the entirely separate media services business Carat, while WCRS became part of the Havas-owned Arnold Worldwide network. The agency's management team bought back their independence in 2004, and WCRS added to its resources with the acquisition of a string of marketing services companies involved in interactive, branded content, sponsorship and direct marketing. These included CRM agency Partners Andrews Aldridge, and PR and activation units Slice, Mischief and MHP. Parent group Engine was created as the umbrella for these different units, becoming a broadly integrated group offering a complete range of interlinked marketing services. In 2014, US private equity investor Lake Capital acquired Engine Group, injecting its own portfolio of marketing agencies including Deep Focus and Trailer Park, but performance dipped as several key clients departed. In 2019, most of the group's various subsidiaries in the UK, including WCRS, were merged into a single entity under the Engine name. The dropping of the WCRS brand surprised many, and prompted the departure of several key managers including Robin Wight - the W in WCRS - and UK chief executive Matt Edwards. However, the consolidation appears to have paid off. For 2020, Nielsen (in Campaign) estimated billings of £194m, maintaining a ranking among the UK Top Ten. Kasha Cacy, previously CEO of UM USA, was appointed as global CEO of Engine in 2018, based in New York. In 2021 the group was restructured as three divisions of Creative, Communications and Transformation. Billy Faithfull is chief creative officer. Globally, Engine claims a network of 17 offices in the UK, US, Australia, China and Singapore. AdAge estimated US revenues of $220m. Local agency brands in other countries have also been eliminated since 2019, with the result that Deep Focus and most other US agencies also now operate under the Engine brand. Trailer Park retains a separate identity, for now at least. In 2021, Engine's private equity owner Lake Capital put the business up for sale. A deal was agreed in early 2022 with publicly quoted rival Next 15.
Capsule checked 1st December 2021
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Historical profile information for Engine & WCRS
Marketer Moves 4th Apr 2022: CCO Billy Faithfull leaves Engine. See Marketer Moves (members only).
Adbrands Update 2nd Mar 2022: It's a deal: Lake Capital has agreed to sell the UK operations of Engine Group to Next 15. The deal is reported to be worth £77.5m, significantly less than the £100m Lake paid for the business in 2014. It's understood that all the UK operations will be acquired, rather than be broken up as had previously been suggested. The main Engine Creative division will merge with Next 15's ODD agaency, under the latter's CEO Phil Fearnley. Other units are expected to retain their current identity, for the time being at least.
Adbrands Update 21st Feb 2022: PR and corporate communications group Next 15 has confirmed it is in talks to acquire the UK operations of Engine, which has been put up for sale by its private equity owners. No further details were disclosed. Next 15 warned that there was no certainty that a deal would materialise.
Marketer Moves 31st Jan 2022: New CEO TBC at Engine Creative. See Marketer Moves (members only).
Adbrands Daily Update 22nd Jul 2021: Private equity investor Lake Capital is reported to have fired the starter's gun on the auction of Engine. Investment bank Lazard is handling the sale. Although a single deal is possible, sources told trade bible Campaign that a break-up of the business could also take place, with its three divisions of creative, communication and "transform" sold separately.
Adbrands Daily Update 6th May 2021: "It Can Wait". The thing about acting is, well, you just gotta act. And if lockdown has shut down global movie production, surely there must be something else you can do... George Clooney pops up twice this week in two very different ads. One, for charity fundraiser Omaze, is pretty cringeworthy (Google it), but the other, from Engine for British breadmaker Warburtons, is actually very funny. Clooney follows in the footsteps of such luminaries as Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone and Kermit the Frog in seeking a meeting with Warburtons chairman Jonathan Warburton... It's a cute idea, and all kudos to Clooney for going along with the joke.
Marketer Moves 20th April 2021: New management structure at Engine UK. See Marketer Moves (members only).
Adbrands Daily Update 24th Jul 2020: "Creature Discomforts: Life in Lockdown". The first time most people became aware of Aardman Animation was in 1989 when the Bristol-based company lipsynced real people talking about their unsatisfactory living conditions to a succession of wittily animated stop motion zoo animals, under the title of 'Creature Comforts'. That original film for UK broadcaster Channel 4 gave rise to a clever set of ads for British Gas in 1990. Forty years on, Engine have had the rather brilliant idea of resurrecting that concept for the wildlife charity Born Free Foundation, matching ordinary people talking about life under lockdown to a new set of zoo animals: 'Creature Discomforts'. That combination is deliberately unsettling. "For us, lockdown was temporary," remind the closing captions. "For some animals, it's for life." Unfortunately, probably for reasons of cost, the film takes the rather easier path of adopting 2D animation rather than the stop motion for which Aardman is famed. Yet the impact of the film remains undimmed. We might have moaned about being stuck indoors for a few months, but these poor animals are in lockdown forever.
Adbrands Daily Update 23rd Jun 2020: "Money Calm Bull". It's hard to believe that it's taken more than a whole year for Engine to deliver a follow-up to its "Money Calm" debut for price comparison service MoneySupermarket. We were a little underwhelmed by the first ad, but this is a big improvement, helped by even more impressive digital effects than its predecessor. If nothing else, it's an immensely entertaining demonstration of imaginative hyperbole, with its increasingly dramatic selection of potential situations in which any ordinary individual might be expected to abandon all calm for sheer panic. Not this bull (who has the benefit of being made of CG rather than flesh and blood). As before, Matt Berry delivers the typically idiosyncratic voiceover.
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