Can WPP’s new global production giant Deliver turn a Cinderella business into a princess?

WPP recently made a brief announcement about the merging of two of their ‘production’ businesses, Hogarth and Deliver. It’s not clear from WPP’s website yet if this will become one brand under the Deliver name , but it is early days.

The merger on the face of it appears to make a lot of sense; Hogarth’s DNA is traditional advertising and Deliver’s is digital. Both are global and employ around 1600 staff jointly. Hogarth is HQ’d in London and Delivery in New York.

It seems to me this signals another significant step for the Cinderellas of the wider advertising world who are finally going to the ball. In their case the Ugly Sisters – big ad agencies – have managed to keep them hidden in the closet historically. This is simply no longer possible due to several seismic shifts in global implementation and highly specialised printing, repro, distribution, channel platforms, and information technology.

Hogarth call themselves a ‘marketing implementation agency.’ Delivery claims to be ‘a global production network of unmatched scale’. They do similar things albeit from differing bases.

WPP is not on its own as some of the other big groups are going down similar paths. However it feels like WPP is ahead of the game – natch. In the same way as Sir Martin Sorrell (SMS) (left) has been an early adopter of digital and research to the significant benefit of the group, I would bet this is the next big thing as they swallow up zillions of client spend in the ‘implementation’ space. It is of course also a defensive move to stop or minimise the migration of production budgets to indies such as Williams Lea/Tag who also claim to be a global leader in similar space.

Guessing, I would suggest that WPP will make a better job of branding their operation than the competition. SMS gets the value of branding their products to give them traction with major clients, through the front door rather than the back door – the historic entry point for suppliers to agencies and clients. This is possible because WPP has advantages over the competition given their top table relationships with major clients around the world. Cross selling is a relatively simple shoe-in for Deliver if that’s going to be the global brand name – and a good one to boot.

In an earlier piece I suggested that the consequence of ‘de-coupling’ ideas from implementation will have a profound impact on conventional ad agencies. Ultimately it means large production departments – for print, television, digital – will become a thing of the past. Hogarth and Delivery make a big play about partnering the creative agencies to provide much larger capabilities and resource than any agency could consider. It isn’t what the creative agencies do, their stock in trade is the combo of strategic insight coupled with strong ideas, assets that then get distributed via many and varied channels.

This move by WPP gets Cinderella to the ball and, who knows, the Prince might end up fancying Cinders so much that the Ugly Sisters are demoted. Anything is possible in a world that is being turned inside out and upside down.

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About Paul Simons

Paul joined Cadbury-Schweppes in brand management and then moved to United Biscuits. He switched to advertising in his late 20s, at Cogent Elliott and then Gold Greenlees Trott. He founded Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow & Johnson in the late 80s, one of the leading creative agencies of the 90s. Simons Palmer then merged with TBWA to create a top ten agency. Paul then joined O&M as chairman & CEO of the UK group. After three years he left to create a new AIM-quoted advertising group Cagney Plc. He is now a consultant to a number of client companies. Paul also shares his thoughts on his blog. Visit Paul Simons Blog.