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WPP announces merger of Wunderman Thompson and VMLY&R, launching VML

The news: Advertising juggernaut WPP is merging two of its powerhouse agencies, Wunderman Thompson and VMLY&R, which will operate under the name VML.

  • This combined force will span 64 markets, harnessing the power of more than 30,000 employees.
  • Key leadership appointments for this integrated firm include Jon Cook as global CEO, Mel Edwards as global president, and Debbi Vandeven as global chief creative officer.

Why it matters: This merger represents a major change in the advertising industry, especially considering the strengths and capabilities of both agencies.

  • The combined reach of Wunderman Thompson and VMLY&R before the merger is notable, involving global clients like Colgate-Palmolive, Dell, Ford, Microsoft, Nestlé, and Coca-Cola.

Our take: Mergers of this magnitude aren't merely about combining resources; they're about fostering synergy, creating something greater than the sum of its parts.

  • With global clients seeking simplicity in their relations and seamless integration between branding and technology solutions, as noted by WPP chief Mark Read, VML is a response to this industry need.
  • Merging such mammoth entities will undoubtedly present challenges, especially in terms of integration and preserving the unique strengths of both Wunderman Thompson and VMLY&R. The success of this merger will greatly depend on effectively navigating these difficulties.
  • The loss of J. Walter Thompson (JWT) and Young & Rubicam (Y&R)'s remaining parts—both iconic Madison Avenue giants that were acquired by WPP for nearly $5 billion in their prime—underscores a radical shift in WPP's identity.
  • The merged entity is set to be operational by January 1, 2024. The industry will be keenly observing how VML capitalizes on this merger to deliver innovative solutions and drive advertising transformation.