English & Pockett’s quiet disappearance from the scene marks an interesting start to the new year (see News, page 3). A pioneer of screen graphics in the UK, it worked for 23 years, espousing branding when we entered the digital era.
It is curious, given the escalation of digital business, that it should close at this point. Could its experience of economic shifts be a warning for other independents that focus on screen branding? Is it that ad agencies and bigger branding groups are stealing their thunder – and undercutting on fees as they offer comprehensive communications packages?
What is particularly odd is that the directors at E&P should have decided not to sell the business. There may have been approaches, but there have been no rumours within the industry of negotiations or a possible sale.
Sometimes it works that way – take the demise of Din Associates last year and the earlier disbanding of Trickett & Webb. Some founders don’t quite work out a succession plan and simply run out of road, to go on to more individual projects, more attuned to their personal ambitions, as the E&P quartet appear to have done.
There is no law that says a consultancy should live for ever. Like many, E&P has had another incarnation, as English Markell Pockett before Richard Markell, now of Markell ID, left to set up Red Pepper and focus on screen branding in the sports world. A casualty of the dotcom bust, Red Pepper went into liquidation in 2001 and was snapped up by XTV, of which Markell became an executive producer.
Markell’s career hints at the fragility not just of design, but of the digital world in particular. D&AD president Simon Waterfall has his own tale to tell of 2001 and the demise of his then supergroup Deepend, which preceded Poke, the consultancy he runs along with five other directors.
It is a cross-over world between design and advertising and is buffeted from both sides. As a sector, though, it is key to the future. We wish all the E&P players good fortune whatever they put their hands to next.