Omnicom's TBWA Buys U.K. Hotshop Lucky Generals

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Andy Nairn, Helen Calcraft and Danny Brooke-Taylor
Andy Nairn, Helen Calcraft and Danny Brooke-Taylor Credit: TBWA

Omnicom Group's TBWA Worldwide has bought a majority stake in one of London's hottest agencies, Lucky Generals.

The three founding partners of Lucky Generals – Helen Calcraft, Andy Nairn, and Danny Brooke-Taylor – will remain in their roles and retain a significant minority share in the company.

Lucky Generals and TBWA London will form a new TBWA U.K. Group, with the two agencies continuing to operate as separate companies. This is in contrast to Omnicom's deal between DDB and Adam & Eve in 2012, when the acquired startup agency was successfully merged into much-bigger DDB London, with the four Adam & Eve founders running the combined agency and turning Adam & Eve DDB into one of the most successful agencies in the world, and a rare two-time winner of Ad Age's International Agency of the Year honor. (Lucky Generals' imminent deal with Omnicom has been an open secret in London, but some had expected it to follow the pattern of the earlier Adam & Eve deal, with a merger of the more aggressive startup with a bigger but lackluster Omnicom agency in need of new leadership).

Lucky Generals has built a reputation for breakthrough work for forward-thinking clients including Twitter, Amazon, Unilever's Pot Noodle, and Hostelworld.

The agency opened in 2013 with no clients, and in 2015 billings were $18 million. Although in 2015 it was only the 77th biggest agency by billings in the U.K. (Nielsen), it had climbed from 122nd in 2014. The three partners had worked together previously at London agency MCBD, which was merged into digital shop Dare in 2010.

A year ago Lucky Generals signaled its ambition to grow by setting up a communications group, Lucky Enterprises, to invest in PR and digital start-ups as a way to broaden its offering to clients.

Helen Calcraft, founding partner of Lucky Generals, said in a statement, "This deal will allow us to preserve our unique culture, build our brand and grow. Most important, with the support of Omnicom and TBWA, we will be able to better deliver on our clients' needs in the UK and around the globe. We're delighted to join such an entrepreneurial group and keep doing all the things we love, on a bigger scale, with some new friends."

TBWA London's clients include German supermarket chain Lidl, as well as Apple and Nissan, which it shares with the network. It was the U.K.'s 10th largest agency by billings (Nielsen) in 2015, rising from 15th the previous year.

Troy Ruhanen, President and CEO of TBWA Worldwide said in a statement, "Lucky Generals' vision, a creative company for people on a mission, is completely aligned with our own: a radically open creative collective. They are relentlessly creative and innovative, with a focus on disruptive work, platforms and businesses. What Helen, Andy, Danny and their teams have built in a short period of time is remarkable. I cannot think of a better addition to the family."

Ms Calcraft added, "We have been fortunate enough to have had conversations with many international groups, but Omnicom and TBWA Worldwide were the only ones to understand our desire for autonomy — perhaps because entrepreneurialism, disruption and creativity are hardwired into their DNA. We already feel like we've established a great personal connection with the team."

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