Wunderman chief Mel Edwards on JWT merger: 'It's not a takeover'

Wunderman global chief executive Mel Edwards

The creation of Wunderman Thompson will take place over a period of around three months with the resulting business comprising 20,000 people globally, its global chief executive, Mel Edwards, has confirmed.

The creation of the new agency has been on the cards for only a few weeks, despite rumors of the deal circulating just prior to the creation of VMLY&R, according to Edwards.

The shop will also be led by current JWT Worldwide boss, Tamara Ingram, who takes up the role of chairman in New York City.

Edwards told The Drum the merger is “definitely not a cost-cutting exercise", with no job cuts planned as a result. She said the move would see a lot of synergy between the clients of both businesses and was very much the idea of WPP chief executive Mark Read.

“It makes sense,” stated Edwards. “If you think about what clients are looking for at the moment and what Mark is doing with WPP, it felt right. Our clients are asking for simplicity in how they work with their agencies and if this can help provide more of that for our clients then great.

"We will be able to offer a full end-to-end solution; creative, data, commerce, consulting, technology at global scale and some of our clients – not all of them – want that.”

She said one question asked by her client list, which includes major global advertisers such as Shell, Unilever and Nestle, is whether the merger will prohibit them working with other agencies as a result.

"Of course that’s not the case," she said. "For some of the clients that we share this will be a good thing, and for us, as a team, it will be a good thing to bring our skills together."

Edwards claimed the new agency would have "a balanced offering", which was why Ingram would also become chairman. "It’s not a takeover – it will be very balanced including the size, with both businesses bringing 10,000 people. It’s big!”

She underlined the importance of both clients and people, and as a result, there would be a transition period in developing the new agency. “We will do this over a period of time and work with the leadership teams on both sides [deciding] what is right for each region and each office, because we don’t have all the answers and we don’t want to rush this.

"We want to get this right for our people and our clients and I don’t want us all to be focused on this for the next three months and nothing else – clients come first."

No date or deadline has been set for the final integration process, Edwards revealed, and said the news of the lawsuit by a number of former male employees within JWT London has not affected the plans.

“We will have to work through that for the people involved,” she said, adding that it wasn’t a situation she was close enough to feel confident to discuss in detail.

Speculation has already begun on the future of another two legacy agencies within WPP – Ogilvy and Grey – and how they will look longer term.

Get The Drum Newsletter

Build your marketing knowledge by choosing from daily news bulletins or a weekly special.