WCRS 1979-1999: The seven ages of WCRS

There have been many comings and goings (staff and clients alike) at WCRS’s creative department. We follow its development from 1979 to the present day.

There have been many comings and goings (staff and clients alike)

at WCRS’s creative department. We follow its development from 1979 to

the present day.

1979-82 Ron Collins, Andrew Rutherford, Robin Wight

Three of the original founders were creatives: Wight and Rutherford were

writers and Collins an art director. Rutherford was best known for

’Labour isn’t working’ at Saatchi & Saatchi while Collins persuaded

Leonard Rossiter to knock Cinzano over his namesake Joan’s lap. It was

WCRS’s no-suit period, although Wight soon evolved into account man,

planner and BMW creative. There was a no creative pitching policy, and

an early attempt to mix creatives and others up on the floor. Rutherford

was crabby and charming depending on his mood. Collins was always

difficult, trying to do things better. Creative talent included a young

Leon Jaume, Derek Day and Mick DeVito. BMW soon got over the early Kirk

Douglas debacle.

Other creative highlights included Qualcast’s ’a lot less bovver than a

hovver’ and Bergasol. The agency was then better known for its print


1982-85 Andrew Cracknell

Day and DeVito led a rebellion insisting on the formation of a proper

creative department with a creative director. So although the laid-back

Andrew Cracknell never quite seemed a perfect fit for the frenetic WCRS,

he was drafted in, and began building a department which included

talents such as Steve Henry and Axel Chaldecott, Robert Campbell and

Mark Roalfe, Dave Horry, Giles Keeble and Ken Hoggins. Cracknell crafted

a beautiful 7-series campaign in a period which also saw the Carling

Black Label Levi’s laundrette spoof

and the birth of Lunn Poly’s ’getaway’ campaign. By then, WCRS had gone

public, Roger Mathews had come in, and there were too many chiefs. Wight

recalls Cracknell expecting a promotion and actually being fired by

Mathews and himself. ’Looking back, that was a mistake,’ he says


1985-88 Alfredo Marcantonio

Wight had admired the way Marcantonio had built and managed the Lowe

Howard-Spink creative department. He brought into the newly rechristened

WCRS Mathews Marcantonio talent such as Collett Dickenson Pearce’s

Adrian Holmes and Graham Fink, who infamously threw a television out of

a window.

It was a highly political period, with a succession of management

consultants wandering around. But there was excellent work being done,

particularly BMW executions such as ’shaken not stirred’. Meanwhile,

Wight was kept at arm’s-length from the agency. Collins left in 1987,

fed up with what he viewed as a City obsession. In 1989, Rutherford

moved on to the newly-acquired FCO. Wight estimates that about 14

clients moved out of the agency in a disastrous run. Mathews and

Marcantonio left (the latter for BBDO), and Wight returned to the agency

to front the electricity privatisation pitch.

1988-89 Adrian Holmes

The cerebral, quietly spoken, conservative-looking Holmes seemed an

unlikely figure to be creative director of the maelstrom that was ever

the WCRS creative department. Inevitably, there was a culture clash

between old-school Collett Dickenson Pearce alumni (Holmes, Marcantonio)

and the earthier WCRS breed. Holmes’s brief tenure of the job saw him

create the Department of Trade & Industry’s Enterprise ’swoosh’

initiative. Holmes always had Marcantonio and the other warring

directors over him, so it’s not surprising that this was a short-lived

and unmemorable period in WCRS’s seven ages. It was no real surprise

when Holmes left with David Wheldon to join Lowe Howard-Spink.

1989-93 Alan Tilby

Wight describes Alan Tilby as a ’brilliant copywriter and great

strategic thinker’. Rescued from his own Tilby & Leeves, Tilby brought

the likes of Peter Souter and Paul Brazier, and Bartle Bogle Hegarty’s

hot team, Larry Barker and Rooney Carruthers, into a re-energised agency

characterised by the new young chief executive, Andrew Robertson. True,

the revolving client door continued to spin, but there were great

new-business wins and fine work in a purple period for the likes of

Prudential with ’I want to be’, the Sega ’pirate’ work, the BMW ad where

a car balances on a convertible, Carling Black Label’s ’dambusters’ and,

of course, the Frank ’n’ Stein electricity privatisation. ’He was less a

creative director, more a creative talent,’ Wight says now. ’It’s a real

tragedy that we couldn’t find a use for his talents.’

1993-98 Rooney Carruthers and Larry Barker

The shrewd, self-effacing Barker’s sharp brain and logical clarity

proved the perfect foil for the maniacal enthusiasm and brilliant eye of

the ever unsatisfied Carruthers. Having been promoted by Tilby, the duo

blossomed in a period which saw the birth of the Orange, First Direct

and Caffrey’s campaigns. They raised the production quality of the

agency’s TV output. Barker and Carruthers were also great ambassadors

for the agency.

As Wight puts it: ’A little of BBH’s popularity rubbed off on us.’ WCRS

began winning awards in a way it hadn’t before; which, it must be said,

is a sad comment on the awards system.

1998- Rooney Carruthers and Leon Jaume

It was a shock when Barker announced he was going to join BMP DDB.

He said he wanted to write less, and be more of a creative director

No-one was more stunned than his long-term partner, Carruthers. But he

filled the gap left by Barker by recruiting the twice-departed Leon

Jaume for a third time - on this occasion he was wooed back from Ogilvy

& Mather.

Jaume doesn’t want to write ads, and has a similar calming influence on

Carruthers to the role Barker used to play. The last year has seen them

off to a flying start with the Camelot, Bupa and Sega wins, and the

rescue of the drifting Carling campaign. The most obvious thing to say

about today’s version of what Wight describes as a ’consistently

inconsistent’ creative department is that the batting average is

considerably higher than it’s ever been before.