Wunderman brand ditched as WPP creates VML giant

WPP 2WPP has merged Wunderman Thompson and VMLY&R, scrapping the Wunderman brand which has been synonymous with the creation of direct marketing – let alone data-driven marketing – for decades, to rebrand as VML.

The marketing services giant claims that both agencies offer world-class commerce, customer experience and marketing technology capabilities and combined they will be equipped to support clients on creative brand growth strategy and transformation initiatives.

This, the group insists, will all be powered by “best-in-class data operations”, technology platforms and partnerships with leading technology companies. It will also provide an offer for healthcare companies and B2B marketers.

Respective client bases, functional expertise and geographic strengths mean the agencies are highly complementary and the combined company will have more than 30,000 people in 64 markets, WPP said in a statement.

Jon Cook (pictured, left) becomes VML global CEO and Mel Edwards (right) VML global president, with the broader management team bringing together leaders from across both companies.

Cook said: “The future of building strong brands and businesses requires the interconnectivity of brand experience, commerce and customer experiences.

“We recognised 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.”

Wunderman Thompson was created in 2018 from the merger of Wunderman and J Walter Thompson one of global chief executive Mark Read first moves to consolidate the group.

JWT was launched in 1864, while Wunderman was launched in 1958 by DM founding father Lester Wunderman as Wunderman, Ricotta & Kline, which specialised in mail order and direct mail.

The agency was acquired by Young & Rubicam in 1973, and ultimately became part of WPP Group, when it acquired Y&R in 2000. Lester Wunderman passed away in 2019.

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.”

Last week, Wunderman Thompson UK chief creative officer Steve Aldridge quit the agency unexpectedly; it is not known how many others will now follow.

Immediate leadership 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.

Wunderman Thompson and VMLY&R have partnered globally across clients such as Colgate-Palmolive, Dell, Ford, Microsoft, Nestlé, and The Coca-Cola Company.

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