Engine unveils its three new pillars – but is this wise?

Engine, the marcoms group set up by former WCRS founder Peter Scott, announced last year that it was getting rid of agency brands – including WCRS (Scott had departed some time before.) Engine is now owned by US firm Lake Capital although it’s rumoured to be for sale with Deloitte named as a possible buyer last year.

Also on the way out is Partners Andrews Aldridge (PAA), its CRM, agency and quite famous in its day plus other smaller brands. Instead we’re going to have three “pillars:” Transformation which appears to be consultancy; Creative and Experience Design and Communications (formerly PR.) WCRS CEO Matt Edwards becomes CEO of creative and experience design, Billy Faithfull from WCRS is CCO, Emma Robertson from Engine’s Transform is now CEO of Engine Transformation, Alex Bigg from PR firm MHP is CEO of Engine Communications and Simon Peck is chief client officer. The boss seems to be Jim Moffatt, CEO of Engine in Europe and APAC.

PAA boss Martin Nieri has left and Engine’s headcount has reduced from 696 to 646, which is one reason for dispensing with agency brands.

It’s pretty obvious that the takeover by Silver Lake, which gave Engine a production business on the US west coast, has failed to give Engine the oomph it required to build a bigger marcoms business although its operating units, particularly WCRS, have had their moments in the interim.

The new model looks rather like a mini-Accenture Interactive – or ‘cagency’ – as many ad agencies do these days, the slimmed down Ogilvy within WPP for one. Ogilvy has lots of chief this and thats too.

Will it work? The rationale, apart from cutting costs, seem to be that clients are growing increasingly impatient with fragmented agency groupings where it’s far from clear what everyone does. Some want to get one invoice for everything.

The problem, though, remains differentiation. Most people knew what WCRS did (advertising) and PAA (what we used to call direct marketing.) Ditto MHP in PR.

Can such new entities really convince clients they’re now about business “transformation” as opposed to reaching customers? Maybe the big media agencies have appropriated this and Engine doesn’t have a media agency although former boss Scott tried at times to sign one up.

Engine’s new website says it’s now about “transformation through collaboration,” thereby ticking another box. We’ll see.

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About Stephen Foster

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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.