More changes at WPP’s Ogilvy as it searches for former glories in new clothes

WPP’s US sales are heading south and CEO Mark Read has blamed this roundly on the performance of his creative agencies.

Ogilvy is the biggest of these and global CEO John Seifert has been shuffling the deck chairs, becoming interim US CEO in place of Lou Aversano, who’s been given a global role, and appointing CMO Lauren Crampsie (below) as president.

Seifert says: “Lauren has been a critical partner to me on all aspects of our ‘One Ogilvy’ transformation… essential to Ogilvy’s strategy for making our clients’ brands matter in today’s rapidly changing business environment.”

Ogilvy has so far evaded more radical surgery under Read, who’s already merged J. Walter Thompson into Wunderman and Y&R into VML. But the jury’s still out on ‘One Ogilvy’ which has seen the agency-based holding company in all but name try to be…something else.

When Sir Martin Sorrell was busily acquiring every agency network that moved it sort of made sense. Ogilvy, JWT and Y&R all had their other bits: Ogilvy One direct marketing for example, Wunderman at Y&R and some research businesses at JWT. Their job was to deliver the numbers, even if it meant competing with each other.

Then matters became more complicated when Sorrell pioneered the use of cross-agency teams to service big, demanding clients. The GTB agency which handled Ford up to last year was the most notable example.

But the agency networks/holding companies lost ground. Clients began to think, why not hire WPP (or not) and have done with it? This is Publicis’ pitch although US rivals Omnicom and Interpublic have largely stuck with their big agency brands and, so far, that’s paid off.

So Ogilvy is a poser for Read as well as Seifert. In theory there’s no reason why ‘One’ Ogilvy needs a US as well as a global CEO who’s based in New York. That would save some money.

But the bigger issue is restoring the likes of Ogilvy to its former glories. That’s not going to happen with JWT or Y&R which are adjusting to a more modest role in life. But WPP needs a big powerful creative agency in the US if it’s going to turn things round there.

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About Stephen Foster

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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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