OPINION: WPP has to deliver creativity for Boots

WPP grabs pounds 80 million Boots global work. What an unusual headline for a press release. No mention of J. Walter Thompson, which will handle the bulk of the business on behalf of its WPP parent. The coup is being presented emphatically as a WPP triumph.

WPP grabs pounds 80 million Boots global work. What an unusual headline for a press release. No mention of J. Walter Thompson, which will handle the bulk of the business on behalf of its WPP parent. The coup is being presented emphatically as a WPP triumph.

Interestingly, the deal seems to have been thrashed out in secrecy between Martin Sorrell, WPP's group chief executive, and his Boots counterpart, Steve Russell. For Sorrell, the win is a perfect endorsement of WPP's multi-disciplined structure, which he has been putting in place to adapt to the highly flexible and ever-changing global communications marketplace. Having turned WPP into a many-faceted communications company, he is now enabling the various WPP entities to operate with a growing degree of cross-fertilisation.

While JWT handles the high-profile work - augmenting a relationship that began six years ago, despite an indifferent start with its 'love Boots' campaign - much will also cascade down to other WPP subsidiaries specialising in market research, PR and branding.

WPP will provide a high comfort factor for a company whose aggressive international expansion plan belies its 129-year history and familiar presence on the high street. Behind the name lies a highly savvy retail operation looking to WPP to sustain it as it goes global and confronts increasing supermarket competition.

WPP can expect Boots to be a demanding client. The company has been swift to lay plans to prevent the Wal-Mart juggernaut rolling over it by diversifying into services such as dentistry and has shown itself to be ruthless with under-performing subsidiaries.

Sorrell knows there will be other clients like Boots who will be requiring the full monty from their networks. Driven by the growth of technology and e-commerce, companies are converging at such a rate that it becomes ever more difficult to say what business they are in. Yet in spite of these mega consolidations - and there will certainly be more - creativity will remain key and the factor by which they stand or fall.

Sorrell will need no reminding that the pitch for the global account of the Ford-owned Land Rover, which seemed to be WPP's for the taking, has been widened to include three non-WPP shops. Global clients and those with global aspirations like the idea of having all their eggs in one basket, as long as nobody fumbles and drops the one stamped 'creativity'.



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