Will WPP’s next shotgun marriage be Ogilvy and Grey?

So what’s next at WPP – Ogilvy Grey or Grey Ogilvy (the former one hopes.)

WPP CEO Mark Read (below) has already combined VML and Y&R into VMLY&R and, yesterday, JWT with Wunderman to create Wunderman Thompson. He’s started so he may as well finish. There are other WPP candidates for mergers – one often mentioned is Geometry, an international entity that describes itself as a “brand experience agency” – but it would seem odd to leave Ogilvy and Grey on their own, given what’s happened elsewhere.

One issue about combining them would be clients, assuming they’re still concerned about conflict these days. Ogilvy is a big Unilever agency (Dove etc) while Grey has always been a Procter & Gamble stalwart, the main reason former WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell bought it all those years ago. Sorrell, so far, has not offered his thoughts on Wunderman Thompson but he probably will.

As ever, Sorrell is the ghost at the WPP feast and what Read is doing looks like his version of Sorrell’s “better, faster, cheaper” mantra for his new S4 Capital and MediaMonks – only on a much larger scale.

Ogilvy itself is going through a form of “transformation” (aren’t we all these days?), the new Ogilvy being a merger in effect of Ogilvy & Mather advertising and OgilvyOne direct marketing, with OgilvyOne people mostly on top. Maybe that’s all that’s required. Or maybe Read is fearful of the enraged ghost of David Ogilvy arising from the sods at his beloved Château de Touffou to grab him warmly by the throat.

Another option would be to sell Ogilvy or, more likely Grey, to a consultancy, Asian buyer or private equity.

Read’s much-heralded review of WPP is due in December. At this rate it will mostly be done and dusted by then.

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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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