LAS VEGAS — It is the world’s largest advertising agency holding group. That means WPP operates dozens of owned units, agencies, acquisitions and investments, across the advertising value chain.
At time of writing, for example, WPP’s website lists some 400 subsidiaries under its umbrella.
CEO Sir Martin Sorrell thinks the situation could stand some tidying up – so he will stage a coming-together, to better service brands that increasingly want to use data to go direct to consumers.
Speaking with Beet.TV at the Consumer Electronics Show about “horizontality” at WPP, he said: “We think we should be one firm. It’s a question of how long that takes. If you slam things together … it tends to go against you.
“I don’t think the direction is controversial, having one united firm – what is controversial is the speed at which you do it. It has to be done gradually.”
Across the industry, agencies are responding to the changing demands of brands, by bolting on new capabilities and by reconfiguring their organizational structures.
One of the biggest trends is the fusing of traditional media buying with the marketing practice of using data to reach consumers more directly.
Amongst 39 data investment and management holdings, WPP already operates Kantar. Within WPP, the data discipline is now bringing in $5bn, almost as much as the $6bn it makes from media. But Sorrell wants an improvement.
“It’s half the company,” he says. “We’re trying to bring media and investment management and data investment and management closer together. It should be much more united.
“We have had some successes in terms of pitches, we’ve had some failures. We have often failed to integrate our offer, to lock it together and leverage the data that we have … Increasingly, clients are looking for integration.”
A solid data play, matched to media firepower, would give ad agencies the chops they need to front up to the power of Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple in a data-driven ad world, Sorrell added.