'WCRS has been the powerhouse of Engine': Peter Scott on the end of an agency
A view from Peter Scott

'WCRS has been the powerhouse of Engine': Peter Scott on the end of an agency

Engine is planning to drop the WCRS brand after 39 years to move to an integrated business model. Co-founder Peter Scott looks back at the history of Wight Collins Rutherford Scott.

It’s a sad development but, in this rather confused and data-driven market, it was probably inevitable.

WCRS was billed as the first of the new generation of agencies, with strong creative credentials and no creative pitches. Where we led, others followed: Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Lowe Howard-Spink, Gold Greenlees Trott.

Robin Wight conceived the idea and pursued it relentlessly. He always had conviction as part of his DNA and would not give up on what became a superstars agency.

The combination of three creative heavyweights and the guy from central casting was "unusual". And not easy to manage.

Until 24 hours before launch, the name was Wight, Scott, Collins, Rutherford – following the order we came together.

Then we had the first of many creative rebellions and became WCRS Business, getting off to a roaring start by winning BMW, but then nearly disappeared off the radar. The first work for BMW was dreadful and off-target by millions of miles. There were too many creative chefs in the kitchen. We sorted that out and went on to work for BMW for 35 years.

The early days were hard work, but massive fun; loads of practical jokes to ease pressure and tension. The work was always patchy – some great highs but some embarrassing lows too.

We IPO-ed simply because it seemed like a good idea at the time. From memory, we all took the massive sum of £125,000 off the table, which didn't seem very much then and even less now.

The pricing meeting with the brokers was held in a boxing ring. We rigged up in the boardroom with a referee. The brokers laughed so much that we squeezed another 1p on the issue price. They had the last laugh, as the stock doubled on the first day of trading (those were the days!).

The 1980s were totally brilliant… until the crash of 1987, which rather slowed things down.

WCRS rebranding as WCRS Matthews Marcantonio was a disaster and a very ill-judged move.

When WCRS international network became Aegis, the business was sold to Havas as Aegis wanted to focus on media buying.

The era of Andrew Roberts was a second golden era but a very short one.

After the company was sold to Havas, it stagnated, leading a break-free/buyback in 2004. It was liberating for the business but it needed a kick up the backside, which this delivered.

Then it got back into its stride again, winning Sky, Three and Santander. WCRS has generally done well since and – under Matt Edwards, with Julian Hough as chair, Leon Jaume as executive creative director and Robin as spiritual leader – it needed to learn about the new digital world and all the tricks that went with it. WCRS has been the powerhouse of Engine.

The worry must be that, in moving to a holding company name devoid of values, all that WCRS stood for will be lost.

Robin is the last of the four musketeers left. I hope he continues to strive for great signature work.

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