Jon Cook & Mel Edwards

five reasons why

Five reasons why... WPP has merged VMLY&R and Wunderman Thompson

Five years since four agencies became two, those two agencies have become one

By creative salon

Advertising's historians might shed a tear at the final passing of the Thompson agency name into history after nearly 160 years in favour of the mere stripling 30-year-old VML brand, but the move is part of WPP's strategy of creating global mega-agency powerhouses.

In February, the WPP chief executive Mark Read showed a similar lack of sentimentality when he fused Mediacom with its sister media agency Essence to combine their respective skills. In doing the same to Wunderman Thompson and VMLY&R (both of which were products of their own mergers five years ago), he has created the world’s largest creative company, combining brand experience, customer experience and commerce. It comes into being at the start of next year.

Five Reasons Why WPP has created VML

  • Size matters, particularly for global clients. The new agency will comprise more than 30,000 people in 64 markets, making it the biggest creative company in the world, according to WPP.

  • While Read has already rationalised much of the WPP portfolio of agencies, technological advancement within marketing continues apace - not least through the growth of AI. By merging two of its agencies that operated at the upper end of the customer funnel, he hopes that this will give clients a one-stop shop and be ahead of the competition with the use of AI.

  • Historically both Wunderman Thompson and VMLY&R have strengths in different areas: CRM and advertising; and commerce and customer experience respectively. This makes them complementary and should help minimise duplication of roles and capabilities.

  • The two agencies have already worked closely together on shared clients including Colgate-Palmolive, Dell, Ford, Microsoft, Nestlé and The Coca-Cola Company.

  • With a suite of services including commerce, customer experience, marketing technology, data operations and partnerships with leading technology companies, including Adobe, BigCommerce, Contentful, Microsoft, Salesforce and Sitecore, VML will be able to offer strong competition to consultancies that have tried to impinge on the marcomms market.

VML will be led by Jon Cook, who becomes Global CEO, and Mel Edwards as Global President. Other appointments include Debbi Vandeven, Global Chief Creative Officer; Eric Campbell, Global Chief Client Officer; Juan Pablo Jurado, CEO LATAM; Ewen Sturgeon, CEO EMEA; and Audrey Kuah and Yi-Chung Tay, Co-CEOs APAC.

Read said: “Scale matters in today’s world as AI and technology transform marketing and global clients look to simplify their relationships. VML will combine world-class creativity with deep expertise in data, marketing technology and platforms to deliver competitive advantage for ambitious brands. It’s another important step forward for WPP as we continue to reshape our offer for the future, simplify our business and unlock further benefits of scale.

“Separately, Wunderman Thompson and VMLY&R are two of WPP’s strongest and best-performing agencies. Together, they will deliver an even wider, fully integrated suite of capabilities to our clients in every market. Marketers today expect seamless links between their brand advertising and technology solutions and platforms. VML provides an immediate solution to this business imperative.”

Cook said: “The future of building strong brands and businesses requires the interconnectivity of brand experience, commerce and customer experiences. We recognized the immediate opportunity to create what every consultancy and advertising agency aspires to build with the formation of VML. We’re especially excited to present our new offering to the industry as we don’t believe there is another company as creatively awarded with our depth in customer experience and commerce.”

Edwards added: “This is the right suite of capabilities, offered at just the right moment, at unprecedented scale. It’s incredibly exciting because with this new agency we have the chance to shape the future of modern marketing in every key market around the world. The opportunities it affords our people and the growth we can deliver for our clients at a global scale make this a real game-changer for each business and the wider industry.”


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