Feature

WCRS - Thirty Years in Pictures

From shoddy work in 1980 to an iconic strapline in 1993 and from Cannes gold in 1997 to a moonwalking bear in 2007 - WCRS has come of age.

1979: WCRS launches

Peter Scott: "Huge talent from the beginning. Robin's energy and thick skin. Andrew and Ron's creativity. My baseball bat. Newish model and structure. End of the Labour era. Thatcher beckoned."

1980: Wins BMW

Robin Wight: "Almost inconceivable that our first BMW ad would be the worst one. The idea behind the ad? Was there one? Apart from collecting Kirk Douglas' autograph for Ron's autograph-collecting son (aka Damon Collins). Happily we had the wisdom to steal the "ultimate driving machine" from its US agency. Luckily, John Wagner, the BMW managing director who I had worked with for three years doing Audi ads, gave us a second chance."

1982: Wins Carling Black Label

Robin Wight: "The 'I bet he drinks a lot of milk' slogan we pitched to Milk morphed into the famous Carling line. 'Dambusters' was the lucky bounce; the BACC objected to risking upsetting the pilots' widows, it was saved by the 617 Squadron Society giving us their permission. This ad should be running now, instead of those boring ads about barley."

1985: The Scotch Tape skeleton hits TV screens

Robin Wight: "In 1983, we discovered the basis of our most effective ad ever: Every time you record on a VCR, the tape is electronically renewed.Even Scotch didn't know that. Helped by Archie the skeleton, it became a market leader."

1987: Ron Collins leaves

Peter Scott: "Relief."

1988: Andrew Rutherford leaves to go to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office

Peter Scott: "Andrew didn't leave, he just went to do another job. He wanted to write less."

1988-89: WCRS buys half of Carat, Havas invests and wins electricity privatisation brief

Peter Scott: "WCRS bought half of Carat in 1988. Carat was the largest independent media planning group in Europe. Soon afterwards we bought HMS in Germany and consolidated positions in Italy and Spain."

1990: Wight returns with Alan Tilby

Robin Wight: "1990 was a low point with nine major clients leaving. I was in exile when Alan Tilby inveigled me back into pitch with him for the privatisation of the Regional Electricity Companies. Lightning struck. Then Andrew Robertson arrived from JWT and we invented the concept of 'advertising productivity'. Thanks for helping, Alan."

1993-94: Wins Orange/Orange launch

Rooney Carruthers: "It's 6.30 on a summer's evening, Larry Barker and I have been working on Orange for about a week. Robin comes bounding into our corner office - in his bow and tie look! He looks at Larry's layout pad (this was before the days of Macs and YouTube) and shouts at the top of his voice 'that's it, genius'. Written on Larry's pad is: 'The future's bright, the future's Orange.'"

1997: Wins Land Rover - resurrects 'the best 4x4xfar'

Debbie Klein: "WCRS has a great history of advertising archaeology - meaning that we look at where a brand's come from, before we decide where it's going. We revived the dormant CDP endline 'the best 4x4xfar' and used it to springboard the Freelander 'born free' ad, which ran in 56 markets and won a gold Lion at Cannes."

1997: Wins Camelot

Leon Jaume: "We never did a single decent ad for the brand, it divided the management, and trying to hang on to it nearly brought the agency to its knees. Losing it lifted a dead-weight and allowed the agency to be reborn. Biggest disappointment and misery in all my years at the agency."

1999: Last time Robin wears a bow tie

Robin Wight: "For about 35 years, the bow tie was my personal branding device; a modest form of exhibitionism and you spilt less gravy on them. But in 2000, things changed; a new Millennium and a new wife (the third and final). She pronounced that they were 20th century - as always, she was right. Instead, the open neck look allowed me to continue to refuse to act my age."

2000: Wins Mini

Debbie Klein: "The success of the new BMW-owned Mini was not a foregone conclusion before launch. The most loved car brand deserved famous and loved advertising. 'It's a Mini adventure' perfectly captured the personality on wheels. The factory in Oxford worked 24/7 and its iconic status was preserved."

2003: Wins 118 118

Leon Jaume: "The perfect example of what can be achieved if a client is as bold and demanding as Chris Moss and you have the creative talents of Andy Dibb, Steve Little and Jim Hosking at your disposal. The only downsides for the client were being overwhelmed by the call volume and failing to cap WCRS's performance bonus."

2005: Rebrands as Engine and completes the Havas buyout

Peter Scott: "The original MBO left Havas with 24.9 per cent of the company. The original intention was to buy out their minority interest at the end of three years but we decided an early buyout of the Havas minority, linked with a change to the holding company name, should be pursued.The group needed to be totally independent and solution-neutral in stance and attitude."

2005: Wins Abbey

Debbie Klein: "Every agency needs a lucky bounce. Soon after the management buyout, one of our most significant wins was being appointed to relaunch Abbey. One of the first clients to see the potential of the 'best in class under one roof' concept of Engine."

2006: Sky account win

Luke Williamson: "Sky needed an agency to help launch its triple-play offer. It was a practical pitch with 'see speak surf' as the solution to a confusing proposition. It went down well and allowed us to then attack the problem of brand perception. 'Believe in better' was the result."

2007: 'Moonwalking bear'

Yan Elliot: "The test of a good agency is whether it survives the test of time while still delivering good creative work. 'Moonwalking bear' was a sign of the times. For an ad to be seen by 14.5 million people, and not appear on TV, would have been unheard of 30 years ago. That makes 'these days' the good days."

2008: Moves office

Peter Scott: "Best in class under one 'virtual' roof is not the same as best in class under one roof. The decision to bring all companies together in one building was easy: its execution a challenge. It was called a movement, not a move. There can be no going back to the old silo-driven structures of the past."

2009: 30th birthday

Will Orr: "It's been a good chance to think about past and future. This year we've crystalised what we stand for and what our focus needs to be. Being 30 is an inspiration to make sure the future's even better than the past. The quality of our people makes me optimistic."

2010 ... Engine floats

As the group grows, rumours of a potential float swell in unison. It's not beyond the realms of possibility and would make some senior partners extremely happy, and extremely wealthy. Is it the next chapter in the story?

Topics