Wunderman Thompson: Alumni look back on JWT

Former employees speak of 'sadness in the death of a friend'.

Wunderman Thompson: Alumni look back on JWT

WPP announced this week that it is merging Wunderman and J Walter Thompson to form Wunderman Thompson. Campaign asks some of JWT's alumni about the loss of that agency name.

Rosalind Gravatt, former director of communications, Lloyds Banking Group

For decades, J Walter Thompson was the agency that created enduring brands. JWT itself was one of the great enduring and iconic advertising brands. It used to be said that no client was ever fired for appointing JWT – a back-handed compliment, but one that spoke to professionalism, consistency and accountability. JWT was a grown-up agency that sat at the top table and built brands via popular and famous campaigns.

The last few years have seen whirlwind change in the communications sector. There is still a role for creating brand fame (as Adam & Eve/DDB so ably demonstrates), but combining this with Wunderman’s advanced data capabilities makes complete sense to me. I understand the move to lead with the Wunderman name to publicly signal an ambitious change of direction.

But I believe that the JWT brand name could have evolved and still has huge cachet (particularly among blue chip clients) in a way that the Wunderman name never will. I am very proud to have worked for JWT and feel a great sadness in the death of a friend.

Martin Jones, managing partner, AAR

Whether it was JWT, J Walter Thompson or Thompson’s, I literally owe it everything. Without it, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Without it, I wouldn’t have met my wonderful wife. I wouldn’t have met my chief executive partner at AAR (and godmother to my son), the amazing Kerry Glazer.

I wouldn’t have had the chance to work with so many talented people, a number of whom are my friends 20 years after leaving. It was a special place and I remember Jeremy Bullmore telling me that my role was to leave the agency in better shape than I found it.

I’d like to think that I and the others I worked with did that and hope that the new team will be able to say the same in another 20 years' time.

Lindsey Clay, chief executive, Thinkbox

It’s inappropriate, I know, but it feels to me like someone I care about has died. I spent my formative years at JWT, the mighty "university of advertising" and home of planning. I left Berkeley Square for one maternity leave and Knightsbridge Green for another. I worked on incredible brands but, most of all, I worked with inspiring, charismatic and creative people.

I appreciate the industry is changing and tough commercial calls must be made. I just hope that the brand guardianship and culture-defining creativity, which were central to the JWT ethos, live on beyond the name.

Ian Leslie, author and consultant

I started my career at JWT over 20 years go. The business was already in the midst of a transition to the new world of integrated campaigns and pressure on margins. But it retained a strong sense of its own history and a rich, distinctive sensibility.

I was happy to work in a company that truly valued good thinking, good manners and a touch of mischief. JWT was more than a business; it was a way of life, which made it a better business. I wish Wunderman Thompson well and hope it will be more than just a corporate entity.

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