Sources Back Up WSJ Report on Y&R, VML Merger

By Patrick Coffee 

One thing is clear: Mark Read intends to hit the ground running.

Since well before he was officially named successor to Martin Sorrell, the new WPP CEO was travelling around the world, talking to leaders at agencies and clients alike to get a better sense of where the holding company is and where it needs to go.

Last week, we began to hear talk that his first big move would involve a merger of two major creative and/or digital agencies. Of course we couldn’t help but guess as to which names might be involved.


According to a report published yesterday afternoon in The Wall Street Journal, those names are Y&R and VML.

The Journal story stated that the move, described as “under consideration,” would see VML CEO Jon Cook leading an entity called VMLY&R.

The purpose of the shift would be to counteract a decline in the creative agency business on the whole, which has been particularly pronounced in North America. Read himself recently told analysts from Goldman Sachs and other firms that U.S. creative is “the most structurally challenged area” (Goldman’s words) in the global WPP network and spoke of plans to simplify the holding company’s structure moving forward.

WSJ includes more details on that front, writing that Read plans to announce a new blueprint by the end of this calendar year and that the crew of executives reporting to him will be far smaller than it was under Sorrell. The story also includes a very interesting nugget about an executive at an unnamed creative shop who reportedly called Read to complain about being called out at the analyst conference.

As we hear it, no official announcement has gone live yet, either on the corporate level or at either VML or Y&R.

According to more than one party close to the business, however, the merger detailed in the Journal report is likely to become official very soon.

Observers also speculate that more moves may follow along the same lines of pairing a creative shop with a digital organization to better balance their respective service offerings. Based on the gossip currently floating around the agency world, the question is not if such moves will happen but when … and with whom.

Y&R directed our query to a WPP spokesperson, who said the company is not commenting on any speculation regarding agency mergers. VML has not yet responded to a related email.