We often muse in these pages about quite what sort of company WPP is and, more pertinently perhaps, what sort of company it intends to be.
For years the assumption was that founder and CEO Sir Martin Sorrell just wanted it to be the biggest marcoms company in the world (which it now is): if it moved (and made money) he bought it.
The path to world domination was fuelled first by big ad agency buys: JWT, Ogilvy, Y&R and Grey. Then by media agencies MEC (formerly Chris Ingram Associates), MediCcom, Mindshare and Kinetic (which began life as Poster Publicity).
Then came research with the likes of Millward Brown and TNS Sofres, now grouped under Kantar. Now the focus is on anything digital (AKQA was last year’s big buy) and now WPP has forked out an undisclosed but sizeable cheque for Salmon, a Watford-based digital and e-commerce agency that serves mainly retailers. clients include Akzo Nobel, Argos, Game, Halfords, Kiddicare, Morrisons, Selfridges and Premier Farnell.
But Salmon is a technology rather than creative-based business, meaning that its fortunes rest on relationships which are rather more embedded (retailers and others need its services to function in e-commerce land) than most creative agency relationships are (where there’s always something that seems better around the corner). It describes itself as offering digital consulting, design, delivery and support services= – not ads, you’ll note.
Sorrell says: “The application of technology to marketing continues to accelerate, not least in the retail market and success requires close collaboration between our clients’ marketing and sales organisations and their IT organisation.
“Close collaboration between Salmon and WPP’s other agencies will allow WPP to bring clients a tightly-integrated solution across both marketing and technology and help both the CMO and CIO deliver customer-centric multi-channel solutions – yet another example of where CMO and CIO have to work together.”
So there you have it. WPP is morphing into a data and technology company.