More agency mergers may be on the cards for WPP although holding company says no major ones planned

Is WPP CEO Mark Read planning more agency mergers?

Speaking to investors recently Read, alongside the usual stuff about partnering more with tech companies and the surprising revelation that Google was WPP’s second-biggest client, said the mergers of JWT with Wunderman and Y&R had been successful, leaving the door ajar for further such moves presumably.

WPP says no major agency are planned and we’re happy to take their word for it. Circumstances, though, do change.

Our earlier report may have rung a few alarm bells at Ogilvy, which is currently undergoing its own “transformation,” the latest example being laying off about 80 people in the US including senior creative Leslie Sims, as it tries “location-based management” instead of a layer of people overseeing its various outposts. Ogilvy, once WPP’s biggest purchase and one which almost brought down the holding company as business faltered in the 1990s, and Grey are the remaining giant quasi-independent WPP creative agencies.

Creative agencies don’t come more famous than Ogilvy (above), David Ogilvy’s creation. JWT was also an iconic agency in adland but its star had waned and the disastrous Gustavo Martinez affair, when the JWT global CEO was accused of all sorts of wrongdoing, proved to be the final nail in its coffin.

Ogilvy in the UK was the product of a merger back in the day when David Ogilvy’s agency bought two venerable London agencies to form Ogilvy Benson & Mather which morphed into Ogilvy & Mather.

Welding Ogilvy and Grey together does not seem to be on WPP’s agenda, given their earlier statement although there are other substantial operations in WPP’s empire including digital pioneer AKQA.

But the fact of the matter seems to be that there isn’t enough premium-priced work around these days for some of the former behemoths of Madison Avenue. And money, as David Ogilvy found to his displeasure when Sir Martin Sorrell came calling, talks loudest.

This is an updated version of an earlier story.

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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.