Quiet revolution at WPP’s Possible Worldwide as bigger is best proposition fails to bring in clients

Shane Atchison is the new(ish) boss of Possible Worldwide, WPP’s attempt to create a new global digital agency from bits and bobs around the empire, and he has admitted to the Financial Times that Plan A (be bigger) didn’t work.

This is what he said.

“It wasn’t working,” Mr Atchison says. “The companies had just given up their brands for the promise of a greater possibility, the greater opportunity of a new brand. They didn’t fulfil that. The soul of why people are proud of where they work was not there.”

Atchison (left), co-founder of the ZAAZ digital agency which was sold to Y&R’s Wunderman in 2006, took over as CEO from Trevor Kaufman in March. Possible consists of nine digital agencies with more than 1500 employees worldwide and the plan was to create a global digital offering that would appeal to big clients but it hasn’t worked. No big client has signed up.

So Atchison is doing the rounds pressing the flesh, starting a new private social network for employees and insisting that they each write ten blog posts a year to try to create what we used to call team spirit and now trades under the name of ‘culture.’

Will he succeed? Well it’s not just Possible’s culture he needs to change but WPP’s too. Boss Sir Martin Sorrell is a firm believer in bigger is best (just as his former employers the brothers Saatchi were).

But as Emily Steel’s excellent piece in the FT asks, quoting Jay Chiat, “how big can we get before we get bad?”

What Sir Martin makes of Atchison’s candid admission we don’t know. Atchison might be finding out soon.

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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.