It’s VML on top London-wise in the VLMY&R merger (as if the new name didn’t tell us so) with VML’s London MD Amanda Farmer in charge of the new entity with ECD Harsh Kapadia as ECD and Andy Ortner as head of strategy.
Y&R’s newish management team of CEO Paul Lawson, CCO Jon Birley and MD Katie Lee are considering their options. As is Y&R global president David Patton who’s lost out of the top job at Y&R globally to VML counterpart Eric Campbell.
If you’re going to do something like this it has to be radical and new WPP CEO Mark Read certainly has been. But you have to wonder about WPP’s powers of communication as Y&R London has recently been making a big hoo-ha about its plans, including hiring a new head of strategy from Iris just a week ago. Couldn’t someone at head office have told them?
But Y&R London has failed to fly since it made its expensive hirings and they seem to be paying the price for that, as has Patton. According to Campaign Y&R is about to lose its signature BBC account, which doesn’t leave much high profile business although it’s still an income earner.
Former Y&R CEO Jon Sharpe (below), displaced by Lawson who joined from Leo Burnett, is now ruling a rather larger roost as CEO of VMLY&R Europe. Tech-savvy Sharpe has done a good job at VML, helping to bring significant global business from Nestle and Baileys. Sharpe insists that creativity is just as important under the new regime.
Y&R London has been a big player on the UK scene for decades without occupying one of the top spots. It looked as though its buy of Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe would do the trick back in 1999 but then WPP bought it and things headed downhill. Up and coming James Murphy, David Golding and Ben Priest went off to set up adam&eve after a bitter court battle with then WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell and the agency never recovered.
Sorrell had visions of merging it with minority owned The&Partnership when it was pitching for biggest account Lloyds Bank (which went to A&E) but no-one at T&P seemed too keen. Sorrell is also thought to have mooted a VML/Y&R merger before he left.
The notion that such a mighty agency, one of the building blocks of Madison Avenue and significant in London, would be absorbed by a digital network which, although successful, few people had really heard of, is extraordinary. The biggest sign so far of the fabled tectonic plates in adland shifting.