NEWS: WPP set to merge media operations

The WPP chief executive, Martin Sorrell, has given the clearest indication to date that WPP is laying plans for pooling the media buying resources of J. Walter Thompson and Ogilvy and Mather.

The WPP chief executive, Martin Sorrell, has given the clearest

indication to date that WPP is laying plans for pooling the media buying

resources of J. Walter Thompson and Ogilvy and Mather.



Sorrell, who stressed that media planning would remain within the

creative agencies if the buying was unbundled, told Campaign: ‘Without a

doubt, it is the way to go. But pooling can mean a variety of things.

Media power is the key thing. The new media conglomerates that are

forming around the world will bring a slew of changes in control that

will merely reinforce the need for agencies to form powerful media

functions.’



Sorrell would not comment on rumours that WPP has already approached

Christine Walker, the chief executive of Cordiant’s Zenith Media, as the

potential head of such a global operation. Walker also declined to

comment.



In an exclusive interview with Campaign on his vision for the future of

agency media operations, Sorrell also revealed that WPP - where pre-tax

profits hit a record pounds 113.7 million last year - has further

ambitions in media ownership.



The investments will complement the group’s purchase of a 5 per cent

stake in the online publication, HotWired, which WPP secured for an

undisclosed sum last year.



Sorrell said: ‘We’ll be making several investments similar to HotWired.

They’ll be minority participation, probably US-based, probably West

Coast.’



Sorrell’s wish-list for WPP also includes establishing a flatter, more

client-led account structure in the key operating companies - including

O&M, JWT and the PR companies, Ogilvy Adams and Rinehart, and Hill and

Knowlton. To study this theory further, a number of group companies have

allocated two offices as test sites. However, Sorrell indicated that

creative departments would continue to remain separate.



He also indicated that WPP, which has tumbling debt levels and where

earnings per share are up 40 per cent, might look seriously at acquiring

a hotshop that could sit alongside its existing trio of ad agencies -

JWT, O&M and Lansdown Conquest. He said: ‘I wouldn’t rule out a purchase

of that type, I find the thought quite seductive.’



Sorrell on media, p54



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