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WPP merges JWT and Wunderman for end-to-end services

Tim Maytom
Mel Edwards (left) and Tamara Ingram

Advertising giant WPP is merging its iconic J. Walter Thompson (JWT) advertising agency with its digital arm Wunderman in a high-profile move aimed at simplifying its business and providing clients with an end-to-end creative, data and technology service.

The two businesses already share many core clients, who will now benefit from simpler access to the expertise of both agencies, as well as long-standing partnerships the two firms have with technology providers like Adobe, Amazon, Salesforce, Google, IBM, Microsoft and SAP.

WPP has faced difficulties in recent years, with clients complaining that its scale made it too difficult to do business with. The firm has lost major clients and had to cut forecasts earlier this year, causing shares to drop by 35 per cent in the year to date.

The newly formed agency of Wunderman Thompson will be led by global CEO Mel Edwards, who currently holds the same position at Wunderman. Tamara Ingram, CEO of JWT, will become chairman of the new firm.

"To achieve transformative outcomes, clients today need inspiration that is rooted in data-driven insight," said Edwards. "I'm really excited to be able to deliver that within one agency. Wunderman Thompson offers precisely what clients want: brilliant creativity, expertise in data and sophisticated technology skills. I couldn't be more honoured to lead this new organisation and its exceptional people."

The combined firm will consist of more than 20,000 employees deployed across 90 markets. WPP expects the two agencies to be fully integrated and operational by early 2019. No mention has been made whether there will be any consolidation of roles between the two agencies, or if job losses can be expected as a result.

"Wunderman Thompson is a formidable combination, bringing together the capabilities our clients are demanding - award-winning creativity alongside deep expertise in technology, data and commerce - in a single organisation," said Mark Read, CEO of WPP. "Clients was greater simplicity from their partners and this development, like others at WPP, is designed to reshape our company around their needs.

"It's great news for our clients that we can combine the best of JWT and Wunderman in a single agency, and it's great news for WPP as it allows us to compete more effectively in the sectors with the most significant opportunities for future growth."

JWT is one of the world's best known advertising agencies, having been founded in 1864. It was the first agency to air a TV commercial and has an astonishing pedigree. WPP's willingness to sacrifice that brand recognition in the name of simplicity speaks volumes to the degree to which it is willing to overhaul its business.

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