Unlimited Group advertising & marketing assignments

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Unlimited Group is a medium-sized UK-based marketing services group that was known until 2017 as Creston. It was best known for several years as the owner of ad agency DLKW. However that business, at one time the biggest in Creston's portfolio, was sold in 2010 to Interpublic and merged with the London office of Lowe, intially to form DLKW Lowe. That left direct and digital marketing agency TMW as the most important subsidiary within the group, alongside PR and B2B shops Fever and Nelson Bostock, digital specialist Splendid, researcher Walnut, and a healthcare marketing arm. All those agencies adopted the "Unlimited" tag in 2014 - TMW Unlimited, Nelson Bostock Unlimited and so on - and now operate collectively under the banner of Unlimited Group. Creative agency 18 Feet & Rising joined the fold in 2015 via a minority shareholding, but bought itself back out again in 2018 (before rebranding as And Rising). In 2019, the group acquired a trio of B2B agencies: DirectionGroup, Firstbase and Realise. The group's various units have undergone some consolidation resulting in a collection of nine agencies as of 2021. The US outpost of Health Unlimited was sold in 2020, but its UK operations continue as part of the group. All agencies now operate primarily in the UK, but there are reciprocal international alliances with Hakuhodo of Japan and German group Serviceplan. Private equity fund DBAY Advisors, already Creston's biggest shareholder, took the business private in 2016 with a loan from which it earns a sizeable annual fee. Creston changed its corporate name in 2017 to Unlimited Marketing Group. Turnover for the year ending Mar 2020 was £64.3m, with net revenues of £50.8m. The group reported a net loss of £5.3m, after almost £7m of finance expenses to cover loan and bank interest. The biggest businesses by revenues in 2020 were TMW (at £12m), Walnut (£10m) and Nelson Bostock (£8m). The group originally was founded by former Saatchi & Saatchi executive Don Elgie. He launched marketing consultancy Synergie in the late 1990s, and engineered a reverse takeover in 2001 of publicly quoted shell company Creston, which he used as the vehicle for a series of subsequent acquisitions. He retired from the group in 2014. Tim Hassett was named as CEO in 2019.

Capsule checked 28th April 2021

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Recent stories from Adbrands Update:

Adbrands Daily Update 15th Aug 2019: Serviceplan is to launch its first pan-European healthcare division in a partnership with UK group Unlimited's Health Unlimited. Serviceplan Health will launch initially in the UK, Germany, Poland, France, Italy, Belgium, Spain and Russia, with other markets to follow in due course. The business will be led by global business director Jola Mazurek, managing partner Florian Bernsdorf and creative partner Mike Rogers.

Adbrands Daily Update 15th Jan 2019: British marketing group Unlimited takes a big step onto the global stage with the creation of a three-way strategic alliance with Japan's second-largest agency Hakuhodo and Europe's biggest independent Serviceplan. No equity is being swapped but the groups will each offer representation for the others in their respective markets. There is currently little overlap between the three businesses. Unlimited operates primarily in the UK; Hakuhodo mainly in Japan and South East Asia; and Serviceplan in multiple countries across continental Europe as well as the US and China. A key factor in the partnership is the pan-European Honda account, unexpectedly won by Hakuhodo last year, despite its lack of a sizeable exisiting presence in the region.

Adbrands Weekly Update 17th Nov 2016: British marketing group Creston is to be taken private by its largest shareholder, the investment group DBAY, for around £76m. Creston's agencies include TMW, Nelson Bostock and other Unlimited Group agencies as well as a large stake in creative boutique 18 Feet & Rising.

Adbrands Weekly Update 11th Jun 2015: London creative agency 18 Feet & Rising, one of the city's most talented independents, has sold a large minority stake to Creston, the marketing services group which controls direct & digital shop TMW and technology PR Nelson Bostock among other agencies. Creston is paying around £1m to acquire a 27% holding in 18 Feet. It is the group's first step back into the traditional creative agency pool since it sold DLKW in 2010 to Interpublic's Lowe network.

Adbrands Weekly Update 16th Jan 2014: Don Elgie, founder and chief executive of the Creston marketing group whose best-known agency is CRM agency TMW, announced his retirement. He is succeeded as chief exec by Barrie Brien, formerly COO & CFO. 

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