WPP poster boss Eric Newnham quits Kinetic agency

It’s tempting to see this as part of a trend at WPP following the early exit so far this year of Paul Taaffe from Hill & Knowlton and Doug Checkeris from Mediacom USA but Kinetic chairman Eric Newnham’s decision to ‘seek other opportunities’ or whatever the spin is, is hardly a surprise.

Newnham led a seasoned team that built Poster Publicity into the UK’s biggest poster specialist agency which then became the rather more modish Kinetic when it sold 50 per cent to Sir Martin Sorrell’s WPP in 2004.

But the relationship was never a happy one, Newnham’s freewheeling ways fitting badly with WPP’s highly structured approach.

The only sustaining element was the whopping profit Newnham and co expected for selling the other half of the company but that was stymied by the recession. It wasn’t helped either by WPP’s decision to move Kinetic into the old Dorland offices in Paddington, West London and charge it a whopping rent plus assorted fees for meetings and the like.

Newnham was replaced as CEO by New York boss Steve Ridley last year and his departure has been on the cards since then.

He leaves Kinetic as the biggest poster agency in the world with an estimated $4.4bn in billings, which, in good times, should be a huge profit earner for WPP as poster commissions sometimes amount to 30 per cent of media spend. And not all clients ask for some of it back.

It will be interesting to see if Newnham decides to re-enter the fray and, if so, when. WPP’s ‘gardening leave’ terms are rigorous and Sorrell doesn’t take kindly to anyone breaking them as the Adam & Eve founders discovered when they left RKCR/Y&R.

But the UK poster agency market is almost wholly dominated by Kinetic and Aegis’ Posterscope with Interpublic’s IPM holding about ten per cent.

Posterscope and IPM may both be interested in a Newnham with a point to prove should he decide not to go it alone.

PS. This is how WPP describes Kinetic.

Kinetic is the global leader in understanding how brands can connect with people’s lifestyles and the environments they engage with. A NewCo company, fully owned by WPP, Kinetic’s expertise and insight helps deliver solutions for clients that achieve ambitious brand and marketing goals.
Kinetic is traditionally an Out of Home media agency and in addition today delivers wide-ranging specialist expertise through its complementary service divisions including Joule, Aviator, Target Health, Destination Media Group, Kinetic People, Meta, ALCANCE, Zone and Hi Rezz.


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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.