UK growth for US Web/ CKS

US Web/ CKS, the US branding giant, is looking to strengthen its presence in the UK by acquiring a design consultancy or developing its own UK team of designers.

Despite secret talks with a dozen or more UK groups over the past two and half years, the Californian group has so far failed to find a suitable partner to complete its expansion plans.

US Web/ CKS chief strategist and knowledge officer Ian Small says: “We are not in a real hurry to acquire a design consultancy, but we would like to broaden and deepen our UK-based capabilities, so that we can bring them in line with our world-class offering.”

The group, which will change its name when it merges with the e-business group Whittman Hart, describes itself as an on- and off-line branding specialist. It employs almost 1100 creative and marketing staff in 13 countries.

“We are looking for a world class branding group, willing to buy into our philosophy. We realise that doing business in the local market requires local knowledge, and we are prepared to be flexible with working practices,” says Small. However, allowing complete autonomy is not an option, he adds.

If a partner is not forthcoming the group will look to hire in top creative staff. “We are either one acquisition or five hirings away from a UK presence that will equal that of our West Coast operation in terms of quality,” he says.

US Web/ CKS has numerous North American and Australasian clients looking to grow in the European market. Listed among them are heavyweight technology brands such as Apple, Amazon, AltaVista and e-Bay.

From discussions already held with UK groups, Small says US Web/ CKS’s size and pace of work may scare smaller groups and that the sticking point to talks has been over the question of control.

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