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VMLY&R aims to bridge gap between brands and retail giants with strategic commerce shop

Jon Bird will head up the practice

VMLY&R has launched a global strategic commerce practice, citing Amazon, Alibaba and Walmart as key partners in its bid to help clients capitalize on “the way that people shop today,” according to chief retail and commerce officer, Jon Bird.

Bird was officially named as head of the practice today (21 January). He previously held the title of executive director, global retail and shopper marketing at VML before the agency merged with fellow WPP shop Y&R.

The strategic commerce biz aims to forge strong ties with a number of big retail players in order to bolster its proposition.

"Amazon is definitely critical because it accounts for so much of online retail in the US and is increasingly a major player in search and media,” Bird told The Drum, adding that Target, Kroger and Walmart are also at the top of VMLY&R’s partner hit list in the States.

“We are also taking a more global perspective on our partnerships and [are] working hard to develop deep relationships with the likes of Alibaba. As part of that effort, I was in China with Alibaba for Singles’ Day last November building upon an already strong relationship we have held for many years in market."

Bird’s team will comprise strategists in digital, ecommerce, retail and relationship marketing. The practice has cited the US and China as key markets, however will be based in a number of other markets.

“We are also strong in the rest of Asia, plus Europe, Latin America, South Africa and Australia,” Bird told The Drum. “Increasingly, commerce is global, and VMLY&R has a thriving global commerce community who regularly share cases, intelligence and inspiration, as well as work together on pitches and projects.”

Clients will “generally” also be served by the wider agency, having been offered a “plug and play” route to specialist expertise within the VMLY&R agency. Bird explained that when commerce expertise is required, advisory services and client engagement teams will reach out to the burgeoning practice for help.

The team’s founding brands include Hershey’s, General Mills, Office Depot and United Rentals. Lauren Miller has been named as its managing director.

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