So another point is scored for the ‘small is beautiful’ lobby with the new-found independence of 20-year-old screen graphics star English & Pockett. Given the opportunity to buy back the 75 per cent stake they’d sold to Interpublic Group only a couple of years ago, Darrell Pockett and Rob Machin jumped at the chance and now have the energy and wide-eyed outlook on life that you’d normally only find in a start-up.
The reasons for going in with IPG were sound. Like others approached by big groups at that time, the directors were struck by the opportunity to get into strategic branding projects earlier and at a high level, on the back of their identity stablemate FutureBrand. But with the colossal economic blows that have rained on design since, and particularly digital design, all talk of targets and earn-outs had become unrealistic and ‘corporate’ life sheer hard work.
It also appears IPG wasn’t quite sure what to do with a screen-based group, aligning E&P first with FutureBrand, then with media and communications company Universal McCann. It’s a common problem and one that IPG rival WPP Group has managed to duck, retaining its broadcast specialist Lambie-Nairn as a standalone consultancy within its Brand Union grouping.
This sometimes happens with mergers, when the acquirer decides it wants a slice of the action in a lucrative sector, only to find it can’t easily accommodate the offer, let alone the culture of its acquisition, when circumstances change. It has occurred with the appointment of high-ranking individuals too, as recent shifts in Fitch and Enterprise IG have shown.
The good thing for all concerned in this case is that E&P is still available to work on IPG projects – as any independent would be – bringing together the best of big and small. But it can also expand its own portfolio of corporate screen and print identities for the likes of British Airways and football body Uefa through off-shoots Pockett Rocket and Eye Pie, without being overly concerned about earn-outs and the bottom line.
Pockett Rocket enables E&P to take on faster, more varied projects such as sponsorship and promotions, while Eye Pie is a neat way to show generosity, support creativity and make money. If a client selects the work of any designer from the Eye Pie website, be they a student or on E&P’s staff, E&P takes on the back-up role to make the project happen.
As a way of gaining inroads into new clients Eye Pie is surely one of the most creative new business ploys around. With thinking of this calibre, we can expect the new E&P to follow in the footsteps of its award-winning forebear and create a new model for design.