Is WPP on the way to merging Y&R and VML?

The Wall Street Journal reckons WPP is on the way to merging Y&R, WPP’s biggest acquisition at a mind-boggling $4.7bn 18 years ago, with VML its second-biggest digital network after Wunderman.

Wunderman has been playing a bigger role in big pitches – like the recent one for Shell – under new WPP CEO (and former Wunderman boss) Mark Read. VML under global CEO Jon Cook is big in its own right with 3000 people across the world and, in London, some big new business wins including part of Nestle and Baileys.

VML and Y&R are already combined in Africa (left).

One of the points about having several agency brands is account conflict, still a big issue for some advertisers although arguably less so than it was, and Read may feel that two digital prongs – Wunderman and VML – are better than one, the Accenture Interactive model.

All creative agencies are being pressured to make data and its exploitation a bigger part of what they do and it makes sense to make use of the people they already have rather than duplicating such people in a creative network and a digital one.

Wunderman was part of Y&R when WPP bought the agency but seems to destined to play a part across the board rather than being aligned with one agency although a formal tie-up with JWT is still possible.

If Y&R and Wunderman do get together it should lead to some interesting conversations in Greater London House in Camden, which is currently home to both (and Wunderman). VML’s new European boss Jon Sharpe (left) was briefly CEO of Y&R London until being replaced by Paul Lawson from Leo Burnett. VML has been busy hiring creatives with its headcount up 60 per cent so far this year.

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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.

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