WPP merged two of its oldest ad agencies today—JWT and Wunderman--and I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. There's been speculation that such a move was afoot.
And WPP has been on a mission to streamline and consolidate holdings for several years now—a mission that started when Martin Sorrell was still CEO. It’s really part of what Sorrell called “horizontality,” which basically meant he wanted all the kids in the WPP sandbox to play nicely together so that clients would have a more effective and efficient experience dealing with the holding company, which had become something of a behemoth with many parts that didn’t fit easily together.
Of course all those separate and competitive P&Ls didn’t exactly inspire collaboration.
Ironically, Sorrell also had a reputation for pitting agencies (and individual executives) against one another as they clamored for various brass rings. He realized late in the game that optimal client experience was not the end result of those machinations.
And Sorrell’s successor Mark Read has tacitly acknowledged through his own actions that streamlining operations and P&Ls is critical to WPP’s future success. He’s noted on more than one occasion how the big creative shops need to be repositioned and just three months into his tenure as CEO he’s done just that with two of the firm’s biggest creative networks. In September he ordered the merger of VML and Young & Rubicam.
It’s probably just a matter of time before Ogilvy and Grey go through similar transitions.