Will WPP’s AKQA and Grey blend together or separate?

Much speculation about the kind of agency AKQA Group (now including Grey in another WPP merger) will turn out to be.

We all know about AKQA’s digital smarts, Grey has been lauded in WPP communications as a fabled “storytelling” agency although for nearly all of its long life this isn’t the descriptor that springs to mind. Solid, verging on dour, for big clients like P&G and GSK more likely.

Was hoping that this newish work from AKQA for long-time client Nike might give us a clue.

Alas no, although nicely done as you’d expect. If you’d shown this to P&G before its recent waking up to woke-ness you’d have been politely shown the door.

The real question for WPP and others contemplating similar moves is, can you really weld two very different agencies (or companies of any kind) together?

Such mergers usually happen when one part isn’t very successful: Grey in this instance (although it’s had its moments in the fairly recent past); JWT, holed below the waterline by the Gustavo Martinez affair, into Wunderman Thompson and Y&R into VMLY&R (into which Geometry has subsided too.)

AKQA has been successful in its ten years or so in WPP because it’s stayed different and kept its identity. Can Ajaz Ahmed and his colleagues steer a much bigger organisation that’s different again?

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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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