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
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
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
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