INTEGRATED: INTEGRATED ISSUES; WPP tests the virtual agency for telecoms newcomer ICO

WPP formed a core global account team to do work for ICO, Meg Carter reports

WPP formed a core global account team to do work for ICO, Meg Carter


How can a global advertiser create and launch a global brand from

scratch? Answer: with a fully integrated, global marketing strategy.

Which is exactly what WPP is developing for the telecommunications

company, ICO.

ICO plans to launch a global telecoms business using 12 dedicated

satellites, due to go into orbit in the year 2000. The primary benefit

will be to global travellers, although ICO is also committed to

introducing alternative phone links to land lines in more far-flung


Simon Burridge, global account director for ICO at J. Walter Thompson,

says: ‘Its appeal will be universal. Unlike its competitors, it is not a

US business, but truly global. So its need is to immediately put into

place a global brand. It needs every aspect of the communications mix

operable from the centre for implementation all around the world.’

ICO had two choices. Either it could recreate a classic marketing

department structure or outsource its marketing services needs. It has

done the latter, appointing WPP to handle its marketing through a new

inter-divisional operation - described as a ‘virtual company’.

ICO’s manager of corporate communications, Sarah Bowker, explains: ‘To

me, it seemed absolute commonsense.’

ICO is striking global partnerships with a number of companies operating

in different business areas. She continues: ‘When we set out to look for

a communications partner, we felt the most efficient use of our money

would be going to one source to act as part of our marketing


A core account team has been assembled at WPP, with members selected

from different companies within the group, such as Hill and Knowlton,

Sampson Tyrell, G-Force, Research International and JWT. Representatives

from each meet to decide on integrated strategies, which are then

proposed to ICO. ‘It’s one voice, one integrated proposal and one bill

at the end of the month,’ Burridge says. ‘We don’t start off with a

budget in the traditional sense - ICO decides what option to take and

pays for what needs to be done.’

Burridge is convinced that the benefits of this structure are already

evident. ‘It’s very much the way ahead for the future,’ he claims. ‘Why

maintain a traditional structure that results in people fragmenting and

fighting for their share of the budget?’

So is WPP’s ‘virtual company’ the way ahead for other international

advertisers? The WPP chief executive, Martin Sorrell, believes it is,

for some at least. He says: ‘The critical factor is client organisation

rather than agency structure. The cross-discipline teams are one focal

point for the client; one bill. The marketplace is certainly driving

things this way.’

The ICO dream team

Simon Burridge global account director, JWT

Dave Cockburn planning director, JWT

Catherine Park account director, JWT

Elske Willenborg director, Sampson Tyrell

Maggie Cox account director, Sampson Tyrell

Tony Burgess Webb European vice-president, Hill and Knowlton

Julian Eccles associate director, Hill and Knowlton

Stuart Appleton chief executive, Metro Group

Juliet Glaister project manager, G-Force

Rory Morgan international R&D director, Research International

Richard Goosey managing director, R. I. Technical System