Robin Wight steps down from Engine board, is this the last chapter for the Peter Pan of UK advertising?

We don’t want to sound too gloomy of course, the irrepressible industry veteran (65) is hardly reaching for his pipe and carpet slippers.

But Robin Wight, one of the founders of WCRS back in 1979 and a stalwart of the agency and the agency scene generally ever since, is stepping down from the board of Engine, the latest attempt by another WCRS founder Peter Scott to build a big marcoms company based around the agency.

Wight who began his career at CDP and went on to become creative director of an agency called Euro Advertising at which he extolled the virtues of Audi before Bartle Bogle Hegarty got their mitts on it, has always been a mixture of creative and business analyst cum entrepreneur. Famed for his appalling taste in clothes (once bow ties, now paraffin-coloured suits) he has alternately badgered and cajoled clients into doing what the agency wanted for decades.

He more or less invented the Orange mobile brand along with design agency Wolff Olins in the 1990s and it was the bitterest of blows when the account eventually moved, a truly barmy decision. When WCRS launched the agency, which included two other creatives Andrew Rutherford and Ron Collins among its founders, it got off to the worst possible start with its debut ad for BMW.

This featured film actor Kirk Douglas (which the agency no doubt felt was a coup) and was unspeakably cheesy. A lesser man (and agency) would have held their hands up and slunk, defeated, into the nearest dark corner but Wight and co bounced back with their ‘ultimate driving machine’ campaign.

Robin’s mantra used to be “interrogate the product” and this he has proceeded to do throughout his career. His current enthusiasm is for so-called ‘brain mapping’ in advertising (he’s a chum of scientist Richard Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene). He himself has the air of a mad scientist and a passion for all things intellectual although he was so busy as a student at Cambridge that he took a degree in land economy, known as a ‘gentleman’s fourth.’

But Scott is now firmly in charge of Engine and intent on world domination following his deal to sell up to 40 per cent of the company for £60m or so to private equity firm HIG Capital. UK CEO Debbie Klein is firmly in the driving seat as head of the next generation of management.

Wight remains president, in which role he will doubtless entertain us with his barmy and sometimes brilliant notions for years to come.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.