In the wake of the VML Wunderman merger one might ask: why don’t they just have WPP Creative? After all, more big clients are going for company-wide creative deals (creative being a rather wide category these days.)
Two reasons maybe. One is that VML CEO Jon Cook appears to have been pretty insistent on VML’s status in the WPP scheme of things. VML in the UK was just a digital add-on to Y&R when those two were merged but VML emerged on top, to the surprise (to put it mildly) of the then Y&R global management.
The second is Ogilvy, now enjoying a revival under its female top team. Ogilvy never wanted to be part of WPP and has since existed as a midi-sized holding company in its own right, apart from media when its Neo disappeared in most markets.
The old argument for having lots of competing networks was client conflict but clients don’t seem so bothered now, or at least WPP boss Mark Read hopes they aren’t. Choosing an agency network these days is at least as much about procurement as marketing.
So where does creativity, as it used to be defined, sit in all this? Hard to tell: the enlarged VML looks like a performance agency, walks and talks like one although it’s keen to tout its creative credentials. CCO Debbie Vandeven, who’s only worked in senior roles at VML, has a big job on her hands. Thought something might be up when Wunderman Thompson UK CCO Steve Aldridge departed a couple of weeks ago.
As to the rest, any merger inevitably means lots of redundancies in the sacred name of cost-saving. The enlarged VML (it’s named after the Kansas City founders) needs to keep what creative talent it still has. Which is, presumably, where WPP global CCO Rob Reilly will enter the picture.
In the meantime goodbye to JWT, Y&R and Wunderman. The Mad Men days really are over.