Tag Archive: Wunderman

  1. The creation of Wunderman Thompson: is it really the answer?

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    The latest in a series of WPP mergers is that between Wunderman and JWT – but is that really what clients need?

    A difficult year for WPP

    2018 has been a difficult year for communications giant WPP. There was, of course, Sir Martin Sorrell’s sudden and tumultuous departure from the helm of the company, leaving waves of bad feeling in his wake, particularly when he started his new organisation, S4 Capital. Then, in October, it was revealed that WPP was no longer the world’s biggest marketing and advertising services group, slipping below American rival Omnicom for the first time in almost a decade. WPP’s share price has experienced a downward trend over the last year and is languishing at levels not seen since 2011: this is largely blamed on the disrupting influence of Sorrell’s departure and WPP’s struggle to transform the huge group in the face of a rapidly changing media landscape and increasing competition from Google and Facebook.

    Simplicity, accountability and scale

    So Mark Read, Sorrell’s successor, has a lot on his plate. He needs to ‘steady the ship’ and execute the transformation that will make WPP future-ready, in the face of the company’s own challenges and the challenges facing the wider industry. A major criticism of the industry is that it is bafflingly complex, with agencies, units, sub-units and specialist arms presenting clients with an alphabet soup of agency suppliers. Forrester said that WPP needs to ‘dissolve’ its hundreds of agency brands into a few dozen to ‘meet the CMO’s need for simplicity, accountability and scale’.

    Mergers to deliver on the simplification agenda

    Read has continued the process of simplification that started under Sorrell, including a series of mergers, including that of Maxus and MEC to become Wavemaker, and Y&R and VML becoming VMLY&R. The latest and most prominent of these mergers is between digital agency Wunderman and renowned creative shop JWT, which, on January 1st, will become Wunderman Thompson under a single P&L. In WPP’s press release on the matter, Mark Read claimed that Wunderman Thompson will be a new ‘creative, data and technology agency’ which will ‘bring together the capabilities our clients are demanding – award-winning creativity alongside deep expertise in technology, data and commerce – in a single organisation.’ Mel Edwards, the Global CEO of the new entity added, ‘To achieve transformative outcomes, clients today need inspiration that is rooted in data-driven insight. WT offers precisely what clients want – better creativity, expertise in data and sophisticated technology skills.’

    A new set of competitors?

    Interestingly, Wunderman Thompson’s positioning as a provider of end-to-end, data-driven marketing and creative solutions places it in direct competition with not only the traditional media and creative agencies, but with consulting groups such as Accenture and Deloitte who have recently entered the space with an offering that focuses on data, technology and creative.

    The modernisation of a legacy brand

    While the merger marks the end of JWT, one of advertising’s key legacy brands and one of the few agency names that the general public recognised, it does make sense: there had been a feeling that the creative agency was resting on its laurels rather than embracing a more consumer-centric planning approach. With Wunderman’s digital expertise, JWT’s clients will have access to data-driven insights to inform their creative. What’s more, some of those clients also already use Wunderman’s services, so the simplification argument is even more powerful.

    But is it what clients really need?

    This merger is being widely viewed as a demonstration of Read’s determination to change the direction of WPP and create a more streamlined, simplified and easily navigable organisation for the benefit of clients – even if the process is at times painful and difficult. However, at ECI Media Management we would question whether it’s possible to teach an old dog new tricks. Does this internal merger and others like it really make the agencies more customer-centric and produce better outcomes for clients? Or is it just better for the buyers? Furthermore, in this era of data and associated concerns around security breaches, transparency and brand safety, will clients continue to allow agencies to handle their consumer data? Can they be sure that it is they and not their competitors who will profit from the insights generated from the data? ECI believes – and indeed recommends – that clients will increasingly bring their data and ad tech in-house in order to truly understand their customers and drive that all-important consumer-centricity; external consultants can be briefed for support when and where it is needed. WPP and others have nodded towards this new consultancy model, but the need is increasingly urgent and the communications giants need to evolve quickly if they are to succeed in this space.

    Thumbnail image: Shutterstock

  2. New WPP chief hits the ground running

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    WPP has filled its CEO vacancy – and there’s a lot to do.

    A popular choice to fill big shoes

    Since Martin Sorrell’s acrimonious departure from the top job at WPP earlier this year, there has naturally been speculation around who would replace him. Charismatic and combative, and the chief architect of WPP’s growth from a wire and plastics company into the world’s largest advertising company, Sorrell left big shoes to fill.

    WPP announced this week that those shoes have been filled by Mark Read, who had been running the organisation on an interim basis, alongside Andrew Scott, since Sorrell’s departure. Read is a popular choice both within WPP and among shareholders, and was the leading internal candidate for the role. He has a proven track record in running WPP digital agency Wunderman, as well as in digital leadership and as a board member from 2006 to 2015. He is viewed as a steady pair of hands and someone who can hit the ground running – perhaps less charismatic and pugnacious than his predecessor, but that is widely seen as a good thing.

    Read has industry challenges to contend with…

    Read has his work cut out for him. The day after his appointment was announced, WPP suffered a sharp drop in share price, and the company recently announced a somewhat mixed set of results, with a small Q2 global revenue growth of 2.4% but a continued decline in its North American business, which dropped by 2.9%.  WPP is suffering from many of the same problems as its industry peers, including navigating the seismic shifts that the advertising industry is experiencing thanks to rapidly advancing technology. Many clients are looking to take at least some of their marketing activity in-house, forcing agencies and in particular media agencies to re-examine what the future looks like. Those that aren’t yet taking their activity in-house are simultaneously cutting costs and demanding greater transparency in the wake of brand safety scandals and the like. Furthermore, a new generation of competitors is springing up: not just the small boutique and niche agencies, but also in the form of companies such as Accenture and other consultancies, who are establishing capabilities in high margin marketing services such as data and programmatic

    …and in-house problems too

    Read’s challenges aren’t just those faced by the advertising industry at large: WPP has its own set of unique issues to resolve. It is famously huge, with hundreds of agency brands across the world, more than could ever be needed to manage conflict and who indeed often compete with one another. The many P&Ls

    make it unwieldy and, crucially, ‘impenetrable to understand’ for clients, in Read’s words. This is a major cause of concern for some of the group’s key clients such as P&G and Unilever, while Ford – WPP’s biggest client – announced earlier this year a review of its global creative business, currently handled by GTB, the dedicated agency established by WPP for the automotive brand.

    ‘Radical evolution’ is needed

    In response to WPP’s issues and in order to future-proof the organisation, Read has announced a ‘radical evolution’ strategy that will streamline WPP’s structure, consolidating some of the 170,000-strong workforce across 112 countries and 3000 offices. As Read said, “WPP needs to come closer together, not further apart. There are many good things about the business. It is a question of simplifying the offer, refocusing the portfolio and investing more in data and technology alongside creativity.”

    Read has ample experience in the digital side of the WPP business, and his transformation strategy includes turning WPP’s approach to how it works with data and tech on its head. He recognised that, in a world where the likes of Facebook, Amazon, Google and Alibaba own the lion’s share of consumer data, the most realistic way for WPP to monetise its data capabilities is to effectively borrow data from the tech companies and charge clients for data consultancy, rather than execution. GroupM agency MediaCom is already progressing in this area.

    Other elements of Read’s approach include actively helping clients take elements of their marketing in house by consulting on the strategy rather than focusing on the execution; and management of their data investment or research portfolio – it appears likely that Kantar Media could be sold in the not-too-distant future.

    The keys to success: steady hands and an open mind

    Mark Read is stepping to the fore at a time when strong winds are buffeting WPP and the wider advertising industry. However, a combination of steady hands at the helm and a willingness to transform the organisation’s structure and model could well be just what WPP needs to stay on course.

    Thumbnail image: Shutterstock.com