GroupM CEO Nick Theakstone (below) is expected to be named as WPP’s first UK boss, in overall charge of all the 70-odd WPP companies in the UK including its creative agency networks. He will still have oversight of GroupM in the UK, WPP’s giant media buying operation.
The move would be a surprise as WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell has always declined to appoint lieutenants in WPP’s core markets of the UK and US although it has the equivalent of a country manager in China. Sorrell, though, has been under pressure to simplify WPP’s structure and give some clues about succession – or alternatives – following disappointing half year growth figures. Like all the big marcoms companies WPP has been hit by advertisers cutting back in the world’s biggest ad market, the US. The UK, though, has performed strongly.
The highly regarded and popular Theakstone (in media land anyway) will have a job to do winning over WPP’s creative agencies and others like Wunderman, headed by Mark Read. It’s a pretty dramatic change in the traditional hierarchy of agencies to find a media person in overall charge.
But media’s where most of the money is (or was) and one of Theakstone’s jobs will be to turn that tap on again.
WPP says this isn’t going to happen although there’s been no official statement. Which may indeed mean it isn’t or it hasn’t – or the details haven’t – been decided yet. We’ll see.