Is something up at JWT?
Everyone is expecting a big announcement from new WPP CEO Mark Read soon and, among the favoured candidates is a merger of one of WPP’s creative networks with a digital one, either Wunderman or VML. VML, hardly on most people’s radar, is actually quite big with 3,000 or so people scattered across the world and a strong recent new business record in Europe.
JWT, now helmed by Tamara Ingram following the messy and protracted departure of former boss Gustavo Martinez, has been clearing the decks of other senior execs too. First global CCO Matt Eastwood departed and now recently appointed Canada boss Brent Choi (left) is off too. Choi was also JWT’s CCO of global brands, which sounds important anyway.
When Eastwood left CEO Ingram said: “This was a structural decision that will allow us to be more agile, leverage our collective global bench strength and encourage the burgeoning diverse ‘maker culture’ growing within J. Walter Thompson.” Which might mean anything.
JWT isn’t the only candidate within WPP for a dose of more agile restructuring – its other creative networks are Grey, Ogilvy, Y&R and digital AKQA (which is presumably OK). CEO Read said that their performance, especially in North America, had been underwhelming and he planned to do something about it as a matter of urgency.
Usually when creative businesses stutter expensive people – sometimes the best – go first (as seems to be happening at JWT and also Ogilvy in the UK, although Ogilvy UK seems to have plenty of new business). Followed in certain instances by mergers or even brand “retirements” as in the case of MDC Partners’ KBS, now merged with Forsman & Bodenfors.
J. Walter Thompson, as it then was and now is again, was Sir Martin Sorrell’s first big acquisition at WPP back in the 1980s. It was then a holding company on its own with PR, below-the-line, market research and in-house media. But there are no sacred cows in today’s adland.