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WPP shake-up continues as JWT and Wunderman merge to form Wunderman Thompson

WPP agencies J Walter Thompson and Wunderman are to merge in a move that will see the disappearance of one of the industry’s most recognised creative agency names.

Mel Edwards, left, will become global CEO of Wunderman Thompson with Tamara Ingram names as chairwoman

The new entity will be called Wunderman Thompson and will be fully operational in early 2019, WPP said in a statement.

Wunderman chief executive Mel Edwards, who took over from WPP chief executive Mark Read as the agency’s boss in September, will take the global CEO for the merged business with J Walter Thompson CEO Tamara Ingram named chairwoman.

The move is in line with WPP’s plan to simplify its structure, a strategy which began under Martin Sorrell and has continued under Mark Read who in September announced the merger of VML and Y&R to create VMLY&R.WPP said the creative experience of J Walter Thompson and the digital expertise of Wunderman will create a “formidable” proposition by bringing together “creativity, technology, data and commerce in a single organisation”.

“Clients want greater simplicity from their partners and this development, like others at WPP, is designed to reshape our company around their needs,” Read said.

“It is great news for our clients that we can combine the best of JWT and Wunderman in a single agency and it’s great news for WPP as it allows us to compete more effectively in the sectors with the most significant opportunities for future growth.”

The joint agency will have a workforce of more than 20,000 in 90 markets, WPP said.

It is unclear what the implications will be in Asia Pacific, or for JWT’s digital agency Mirum.

JWT has been led in Asia Pacific by John Gutteridge since mid 2016. He was dubbed by JWT as one of the company’s “rising stars” when he took over from Tom Doctoroff.

J Walter Thompson Asia Pacific CEO John Gutteridge

The regional boss of Wunderman, meanwhile, is Casper Schlickum who joined the agency as APAC chief executive, also in 2016.

In a Q&A with Mumbrella soon after he joined from Xasis, Schlickum spoke of the need for the agency to be “better connected” and to raise its profile in Asia.

Wunderman Asia Pacific CEO Casper Schlickum

Wunderman’s Singapore operation is led by CEO Shannon Dix who joined from Accenture in August.

WPP declined to reveal further details, saying it will update the market “as and when we have new info”.

In a memo to staff, Ingram described the merger as a “careful and deliberate decision” and one that is “driven by the opportunity to reimagine our future and better serve our clients”.

“This union builds on a collaboration across many core clients,” she said. “As a powerhouse we will continue to innovate in traditional spaces while exploring new and emerging categories.

“We will be creative, bold and borderless whilst always putting our people, our clients and their customers first.”

Ingram added that the business was “working through numerous details and logistics in the coming weeks and months” but stressed that “nothing has fundamentally changed”.

“It is business as usual….please continue to focus on what we do best: producing great work for our clients,” she said.

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