J. Walter Thompson is attempting to rescue its Manchester agency by acquiring Cheetham Bell and allowing its senior managers to take control of the struggling shop.
Talks are understood to be at an advanced stage with a view to merging the agencies as Cheetham Bell JWT by the end of the year.
David Bell, the Cheetham Bell managing director, will become the chief executive of the merged operation, and Andy Cheetham, the creative director, will run the combined creative department.
Paul Watson, who is in charge of JWT Manchester, will remain as the managing director.
The merger will be the culmination of several months of negotiations between the Cheetham Bell founders and JWT bosses, who are set on reversing the fortunes of the shop.
Stephen Carter, the then chief executive of JWT in London, was put in charge of the Manchester agency in February after the resignation of its chief executive, Andrew Stothert.
While the agency's billings dropped by 31 per cent last year, according to MMS figures, Cheetham Bell has expanded rapidly since it was founded eight years ago.
Bell said: 'Cheetham Bell is a very strong local brand and JWT a very strong global one. Together we will enjoy great success in the future.'