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Wunderman Thompson merger: Why you shouldn’t panic yet

Deemed somewhat of an open secret, with rumours circulating over the past few weeks, WPP has finally announced the merger between JWT and Wunderman last night.

The new entity will be known as Wunderman Thompson and the new organisation was said to be “distinctively positioned as a provider of end-to-end solutions” – through creative, data, commerce, consulting and technology services – at a global scale.  According to WPP CEO Mark Read, Wunderman Thompson is “a formidable combination”, and Read added that clients wanted greater simplicity from their partners. He explained that with a development like this, and similar others at WPP, he hopes to reshape the company’s around clients’ needs.

The announcement comes hot in the heels of yet another merger at WPP, with VML & Y&R joining forces to form VMLY&R. The announcement saw several of the former VML staff, such as Tripti Lochan (Southeast Asia CEO) and Yi Chung Tay (China CEO) being named co-CEOs of the Asia entity. Unfortunately, this also meant the departure of several of Y&R’s staff members including president Chris Foster, and newly appointed Southeast Asia CEO Andrea Conyard.

With uncertainty hanging over the newly formed entity of Wunderman Thompson, we ask industry players such as Jean-Michel Wu, APAC CEO of Grace Blue partnership, and a veteran in sourcing talent for the ad industry, what employees should keep in mind during this very confusing time.

“Initially, I would urge employees to have an open mind as to the direction that will be taken, but at the same time, have their own views on the direction,” he said, adding:

This will be the first stage and employees need to ask themselves where they are going in their career and of course, have a contingency plan.

He added that while it is easy to harp on skills such as digital and big data, which are indeed necessary, one should not discount the people and relationship aspect of the job. “We talk about great account skills like it is forgettable, but for a client, the person you are working with is just as important. There needs to be a marriage of great people skills with data and technology.”

Wu who had been with WPP for over 12 years, said that he hopes the merger was done keeping in mind the shared synergy between the clients the two agencies shared. “At the end of the day, I hope there is a clear strategy that focuses on client demands and puts emphasis on new skills needed to better service clients. This is the first step in a longer process where WPP will have to integrate in order to be more relevant for clients,” he said.

Meanwhile, Richard Bleasdale, managing partner, Asia Pacific at The Observatory International added that generally, the focus for the industry is moving in two different directions – efficiency and effectiveness, and “it is very difficult to be an expert in both.”

He added that depending on where employees feel their natural strengths and skills really are, his advice would be to focus on one of these two areas and start to think about how one can further develop their skills and capabilities.

“To be seen as an expert in efficiency, you should be looking to build your skills in areas such as automation, marketing technology, content and agility. To be seen as an expert in effectiveness, you should be looking to build your skills in areas like analytics, insight, innovation and performance,” he added. Bleasdale also echoed the market sentiments calling the merger an open-secret, adding:

It will clearly not be the last of such moves within WPP.

Overall, he explained, this is potentially a great move for both JWT and Wunderman, as practically, their core areas of strength, brand/advertising strategy and execution, and CRM/analytics strategy and execution, can be seen to be complementary and a very powerful integrated combination for client organisations.

“However, philosophically the two organisations look at solving marketing problems in very different ways – so there is potentially some tension in creating a joint Wunderman Thompson culture and offering which successfully pulls the people together, as opposed to through differing viewpoints, pulling them apart,” he added.

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