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WPP retains Walgreens Boots Alliance globally, with caveats

The Walgreens Boots Alliance review has been going on for six whole months. Now, after the final shootout against Publicis Groupe, WPP has held on to the business – but only until the end of 2022, which doesn’t seem much reward for all that work.

There is an “option to extend” for another two years, but that could well mean another few months’ work for WPP to justify that extension, rather than getting on with the job at hand. No doubt pricing will also have been a factor factor here.

WPP will be working on WBA’s global marketing and communications strategy, and has set up a network of dedicated teams to service the business around the world. WPP’s release states: “At the heart of the new partnership model is a data and technology solution that will pair WBA’s rich first-party data set with WPP’s industry-leading martech capabilities.”

WBA – whose first-party data must be very rich indeed, given the nature of its business – recently announced a strategic partnership with Microsoft and Adobe to create personalised, omni-channel healthcare and shopping experiences at scale.

The tech focus of the account will be seen as a big victory for WPP’s future-facing efforts. Publicis, which recently announced that it was putting data-tech platform Epsilon at the centre of its growth strategy, will be very disappointed that the pitch ended this way. However, it is understood that an existing relationship between WBA and Epsilon will remain in place in the US — a connection that may keep Publicis in the frame for 2022.

Stefano Pessina, executive vice chairman and CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance, said, “WBA is transforming our business across every consumer touch point – pharmacy, retail and digital – to provide a modern, differentiated customer experience. We are delighted to continue our partnership with WPP to leverage their creative skills, technology and data insights, as we shape the future of our business together.”

Mark Read, CEO of WPP, said, “We are very proud to have been entrusted with such an important partnership for Walgreens Boots Alliance and its iconic brands. WBA is at the forefront of the industry in utilising data to provide enriched, personalised customer experiences. We look forward to working very closely with WBA on the company’s ongoing transformation.”

One Comment

  1. What a sad reflection on the current state of the ad biz. All that time effort and money, and you get the biz for two years… Unless a new CMO comes in and decides to clean house. Reminds me of when Lou Gerstner was appointed CEO of IBM in 1993, he pulled the plug on the eighty odd agencies sharing the account worldwide and gave everything to Ogilvy. No review, no wanky agency search consultants. No, he’d worked with Ogilvy while at AmEx and Nabisco. He liked them and the work they did. So he didn’t fuck around, he gave them the account and told them to get on with it. Those days are long gone.

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