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 under the umbrella Engine name. The dropping of the WCRS brand surprised many, and prompted the departure of many of the existing agency's key managers including Robin Wight - the W in WCRS - and UK chief executive Matt Edwards. However, the consolidation appears to have paid off. For 2019, Nielsen (in Campaign) estimated billings of almost £252m, putting the business back into the UK Top Ten. UK corporate entity Engine Acquisition Ltd reported revenues of £88m but a net loss of £6.1m. Kasha Cacy, previously CEO of UM USA, was appointed as global CEO of Engine in 2018, based in New York. Jim Moffatt is UK chief executive; Ete Davies is chief executive of Engine Creative. 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.
Capsule checked 18th May 2020
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Recent stories from Adbrands Update:
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.
Adbrands Daily Update 6th Feb 2020: "Market / Punk". Ah, the power of CGI, with which anything is possible. The ostrich (or his close relative) last seen in a Samsung VR ad by Leo Burnett a couple of years ago has been signed up by Engine to become the brand mascot for the Eurostar rail service between the UK and Europe. It's a clever concept, encapsulated by the slogan "You see more when you don't fly". Following in the footsteps of the poster campaign, here's Engine's first commercials: one for us Brits, the other for our European friends (as Boris Johnson likes to call them). Instead of too-obvious landmarks like the Tower of London and the Louvre, the agency has come up with two suitably offbeat "famous for" settings that are likely to have more appeal for Millenial travellers: the Left Bank's Les Puces market and a punk rock exhibition in Camden. The ads lack some of the energy that previous agency AMV BBDO brought to their work for Eurostar, but they're still very strong.
Adbrands Daily Update 8th Oct 2019: "What's Your TV Got For You Tonight?". Engine's new campaign for Now - the contract-free service from satellite broadcaster Sky - really gets to the heart (and other locations) of the TV choice dilemma. It's surprising how few mediaowners are prepared to admit this fact, even about their rivals. There are hundreds of channels available to most viewers these days and thousands of programme choices but you can still never find anything worth watching. That's one of the major factors for the rise of OTT streaming services over traditional cable. The latter's content is 95% rubbish or re-runs, but you're still paying for it month in, month out. Tell it how it is, Now! Great too to see the under-used talent of Robert Webb back on our screens again. Come back, 'Peep Show', we need you more than ever!
Adbrands Daily Update 26th Aug 2019: "Pirates". Engine has delivered a powerful new movie-style campaign for the British Navy's Royal Marines Commando unit. Like the agency's excellent previous work for this client, it ramps up the dramatic tension with the depiction of a raid on a camp of modern-day pirates. It must be hard to tackle a brief like this without sensationalising or glamourising the work the Marines do. However, this fine little film pulls it off with an admirable level of quiet professionalism, and one smooth camera movement.
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