Lucky Generals has sold to TBWA for an undisclosed sum following several months of negotiations.
The Omnicom agency will take a majority stake with the three founders - Helen Calcraft, Andy Nairn and Danny Brooke-Taylor – to remain in their existing roles and retaining a significant minority share in the company.
The new structure will see TBWA form a sub-group in the UK, consisting of Lucky Generals and TBWA\London, where both will continue to operate as two separate brands.
The agency said it mirrors the set-up it has in Germany, where TBWA and HEIMAT operate a similar two-pronged strategy.
“Lucky Generals’ vision, a creative company for people on a mission, is completely aligned with our own: a radically open creative collective,” explained Troy Ruhanen, president and chief executive of TBWA Worldwide of the move.
“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.”
Despite approaches from others, Calcraft said that Omnicom and TBWA Worldwide understood Lucky Generals’ 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. 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," she added.
It comes after several months of talks between the two. Last month, The Drum revealed that preliminary conversations had taken place in early 2016 but ultimately fell through before being resumed last Autumn.
Industry commentators noted at the time that buying into Lucky Generals' creative power was needed by the Omnicom shop, which had been lagging behind some of its sister agencies in recent years thanks to the loss of several major accounts and staff.
In 2015, TBWA’s London office lost Royal Caribbean International to Hometown London after just six months on the account. That same year creative directors Walter Campbell and Sean Doyle left. Add to that the departures of both Absolut and Adidas accounts since 2012 and it’s no surprise the agency has been keen to get on the comeback trail.
By contrast, within just four years Brooke-Taylor, Calcraft and Nairn have amassed a client list at Lucky Generals that includes Paddy Power, Twitter and Amazon as well as earning a reputation for consistently pushing the boundaries for the likes of Hostelworld and Pot Noodle.
“Lucky Generals is about injecting fresh thinking, entrepreneurial spirit into TBWA, much in the same way DDB buying Adam & Eve was about reinvigorating creativity in DDB,” said Tony Walford, a partner at corporate finance advisers Green Square. “This shows the value that top quality independent agencies can command.”