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House 337’s Royal Navy and Royal Air Force win is a ‘testimony’ to merger progress

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By Sam Bradley | Senior Reporter

November 3, 2022 | 6 min read

We find out what retaining the armed forces’ creative account means for the Next Fifteen-owned collective formed from merger of Engine Creative and Odd.

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Hosue 337's predecessor agency Engine created 'Made in the Royal Navy' / Engine

UK creative agency House 337 has retained the creative account for the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force (RAF), extending the agency’s 16-year relationship with the forces to 2025.

It’s a major vote of confidence in House 337, which was formed from the merger of Odd and Engine earlier this year following the latter shop’s acquisition by Next Fifteen. The win follows the agency’s appointment by the animal rights campaign group Peta last month.

Phil Fearnley, chief executive officer of House 337, tells The Drum: “It’s a fantastic win and a fantastic continuation of the work we’ve been doing for years now with both the Royal Navy and the RAF. It’s a commendation on the business we’ve been doing previously and the fact that we are coming together as 337. We’re totally delighted.”

The retention, Fearnley notes, suggests the newly merged agency is heading in the right direction. The Royal Navy and the RAF were the crown jewels in UK indie agency Engine’s client roster, its ‘Made in the Royal Navy’ and ‘It’s a state of mind’ campaigns (the latter promoting careers in the Royal Marines) giving it a formidable reputation for creative.

Engine’s new owners initially struggled to keep key staff around following the acquisition. Chief creative officer Billy Faithfull, one of the minds behind ‘Made in the Royal Navy’, left in April capping a string of key departures.

But Fearnley says the agency has managed to keep the entire Royal Navy and RAF team in place, ensuring continuity. “The team that had been serving them will continue to be a part of that and were part of the pitch team.”

Though he notes that it can be difficult for agencies to hold on to clients during moments of transition, the merger didn’t put the Navy off. “It’s an important thing for the organization because there’s always that element of questioning: ‘Are we the same business? Where are we going?’

“The House 337 business coming together wasn’t a distraction for them, because they just saw the quality of the creative work. It’s a testimony to the fantastic teams on the ground that are doing this work day in, day out for clients. From an internal perspective, it definitely feels like a vote of confidence and emotions are running high at the moment.”

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Armed forces recruitment has come under renewed attention since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia in the spring. Paul Colley, head of marketing for the Royal Navy, says: “The recruitment landscape for the armed forces will be as challenging as ever over the next few years, so providing compelling and insight-led creative will be vital.”

He is quick to praise the agency’s record of delivering against past briefs, saying. “Engine, now House337, has a well-established track record of working with the Royal Navy and RAF in delivering impactful marketing campaigns. Its response to our requirement in the recent procurement process was evaluated as outstanding and this work will be critical as we look to meet the challenges of the next three years.”

Though there’s no date yet set for the release of new campaigns, Fearnley tells The Drum the agency has already begun work on its next creative project for the services. He also adds that the agency does still have several positions yet to fill: “We’re still in a constant position – as most agencies are – of recruiting and making sure we have the right teams in place.”

But months on from the acquisition and merger, he notes that the business is better placed to make strategic hires. “Now we’re very clear about what our products and services are going forward, we’re clearer about where we need to make investments.”

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