AKQA, Grey Merge Capabilities Across 5 Territories as WPP Continues Efficiencies Drive

The move could affect 11 of 225 employees across the impacted locations

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WPP agency Grey is set to merge its capabilities with AKQA across five markets—Italy, Belgium, China, the United Arab Emirates and Australia—in an efficiency drive that will allow it to focus on its core high-growth territories. It is understood that 11 roles from across those locations could potentially be lost as a consequence.

The move to further align the two agencies comes three-and-a-half years after WPP announced that it would merge them and form the AKQA Group, which has headquarters split across London and New York. The pair already works together across clients including Volvo, Westfield and Coca-Cola.

In total, the AKQA Group has 50 studios in 30 countries with 5,500 employees. Grey is now set to operate as a singular agency with 20 studios in 18 countries, while AKQA will hold 30 studios in 18 countries. 

WhiteGrey and Grey Dubai will merge into AKQA and will now solely operate as AKQA in Australia and Dubai.

Grey Italy and AKQA Italy will merge, but both brands will remain in the Italian market under AKQA leadership. The two teams have recently collaborated to win work with UniCredit.

Meanwhile, in China, Grey will assume management of AKQA’s Shanghai studio and operate as Grey. There, the pair already operates under a single leadership team, servicing brands such as Volvo, L’Oréal and Nike.

AKQA will also expand into Brussels for the first time as Famous Grey in Belgium rebrands.

The move is intended to offer “complementary strengths and expertise” across both agencies within the existing offices, while resulting in minimal role duplication. A total of 225 employees work across the five offices, with fewer than 5% anticipated to work in “duplicative, non-billable or low-billable roles,” ADWEEK has learned.

In July 2022, Grey, which functions within AKQA, named Laura Maness as its global CEO, joining from Havas New York, where she was also CEO.

Maness explained that the rationale of the changes was to streamline operations while optimizing them and create efficiencies to support sustained growth and competitive advantage.

“The strategy for Grey’s future is simple yet powerful—we are shifting from a ‘global agency network’ to a ‘globally networked agency,'” Maness said in a statement. “This nuance is an important distinction as we continue to streamline our business as ‘one borderless Grey’ and expand our capabilities in pursuit of accelerated growth, with emphasis on an expanding portfolio of large global clients.”

The business added that there are no plans to integrate any other Grey studio into AKQA.

Ajaz Ahmed, AKQA’s founder and CEO, added: “We are proud to partner with Laura’s team and believe the Grey brand has lasting value. Driving operational excellence is core to our mission of delivering sustainable growth and in service of building a leaner, more agile agency to improve our performance and better enable our long-term vision.”

WPP began its efficiencies drive in 2019 with the aim of saving over $750 million (£600 million) by 2025. During that time, it has merged a number of its agency brands, most recently including communications companies Hill & Knowlton and BCW to form Burson, and Wunderman Thompson and VMLY&R to form the world’s largest creative agency, VML.

In 2024, WPP is targeting savings of $222 million (£175 million) from an efficiency drive. with further cost savings of $158 million (£125 million) eyed in 2025.

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