A bit like an unsuccessful recruit on a Royal Marine training course, for which it creates its recruitment advertising, another face was scribbled out of the photo of Engine’s management team last week when Matt Edwards, chief executive of its creative experience and design division, left his job.
His departure came just a few weeks after Simon Peck, chief growth officer, announced he was off. Of the six grinning faces who were revealed in January as the management of the newly integrated UK company (which saw agency brands WCRS and Partners Andrews Aldridge disappear, along with WCRS’s totemic founder Robin Wight), four remain.
Given that Edwards and Peck were instrumental in creating the single Engine proposition made up of three pillars – transformation, creative and experience design, and PR – it’s little wonder that some eyebrows have been raised.
Edwards had worked at the agency for 14 years, arriving as a fresh-faced new-business director from Lowe in 2005 and leaving, Benjamin Button-style, as a fresh-faced CEO.
If there was any intrigue behind the departures, neither he nor the company was letting on. Instead, the statement said that he was off "to explore some projects that have been impossible to investigate while running a top 10 creative agency".
However, there was no inkling of his impending departure when he gave a typically bouncy address at Wight’s leaving drinks just a few weeks before. Good luck to him – he’s one of the good guys.
Peck’s departure, meanwhile, is more understandable. Having been group managing director and missed out on the top Engine job, his position as chief growth officer looked as Peck-shaped as that attempt to force Charlie Rudd to be chief client officer at Ogilvy UK last year.
Meanwhile, over the water, Engine’s US operations have been going through a similar wholesale change of the guard since the appointment of Kasha Cacy, former US CEO of Interpublic media network UM, as global CEO in August 2018. In October, R/GA’s Jim Moffatt joined as CEO in Europe and Asia, and in March Keith Grossman, chief revenue officer at Bloomberg, took the chief operating officer role.
Rick Eiserman, formerly Engine’s US CEO, moved back to his previous role as CEO of Trailer Park, the content production division that Engine became allied to after its acquisition by Lake Capital in 2014.
Interestingly, Trailer Park remains a standalone unit and brand, and there is speculation that this is up for sale. Cacy acknowledged in an interview earlier this year that unnamed parties have expressed interest in buying the division outright, but that option was "not on the table now".
As for the future of Engine, which has tried to reconfigure itself as a "cagency", all this restructuring and shifting of personnel is also likely to fuel speculation that Lake Capital is looking to offload it too. Accenture has already made a couple of bold moves, so is Deloitte its most likely suitor if it came to a shoot-out?
Jeremy Lee is consulting editor at Campaign