Agencies Agency Models Mergers and Acquisitions

Why creative shop The&Partnership is merging with media agency mSix

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By Sam Bradley, Senior Reporter

March 27, 2024 | 6 min read

Signaling that the agency rebundling trend is set to gather pace, two of the British holding company’s agency brands have been blended together.

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WPP agenices The&Partnership and mSix have merged / T&PM

The merger of two WPP agencies, GroupM media shop mSix and creative agency network The&Partnership, creates an unusual business with an unusual name.

Speaking to The Drum after a company-wide town hall meeting, chief executive officer Sarah Golding says that clients, staff and industry observers are invited to refer to T&Pm by any number of pronunciations.

“The longhand version is ‘T&P to the power of M,’ where ‘M’ is ‘media,’ ‘mSix’ or ‘GroupM,’” says Golding. “How you say it is up to you.”

Putting the corporate penchant for acronyms aside, the merger is a live experiment in undoing one of the biggest structural changes in advertising of the last half-century.

Three decades ago, holding companies began separating creative duties from media planning and buying. That process eventually led to the creation of entirely media-focused entities such as GroupM and Mediabrands, which today dominate holdco balance sheets. Meanwhile, creative businesses such as The&Partnership have become targets for investors and analysts skeptical of agency growth potential, leaving them potential targets for divestment as the industry’s biggest groups look to shrink their cost base; Interpublic Group (IPG) sold off two of its creative agencies, Hill Holliday and Deutsch New York, earlier this year.

According to Golding, the emergence of generative AI tools has changed the game, however. Creative agencies must be able to boast media expertise and vice versa, she argues.

“You can’t be a really good media agency on your own or really good creative agency on your own any more because AI is powering everything we do. Ideation happens so fast, distribution happens so fast, and now that clients want to move at pace, they want [agencies] to have a full view of their customer and their customer’s journey,” says Golding. “We think the future is joined up.”

Though they’re located on either side of the industry’s aisle, there are similarities between the two businesses. mSix is primarily a performance media agency and much of The&Partnership’s work is creative ideation and production of asset-heavy campaigns such as those that run primarily on social.

The combined firm will have some 1,900 staff worldwide and around 700 based in the UK; though WPP doesn’t exercise total ownership of The&Partnership (it holds a 70% stake), the two agencies already share an address in London and mSix was originally launched as a joint venture between The& and WPP. The move, she says, has not been motivated by retrenchment concerns. The firm does not plan to make any redundancies; instead, it offers reskilling and training schemes to staff, though Golding didn’t specify which roles would be targeted for change. “This isn’t a cost-cutting exercise. This is this is about upskilling and reskilling.”

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T&Pm does aim to invest in senior talent, she says. The firm is in the process of hiring a new British chief executive, while there are plans to recruit on the performance, commerce, customer experience and AI fronts.

Existing clients of either mSix or The&Partnership will retain their creative or media-only focuses, but the agency will inevitably look to sell integrated services going forward.

“The other reason for this merger is growth: growing clients’ businesses and being able to effect positive impacts on our clients’ businesses, as well as us as an agency, and how we’ll grow will be integrated opportunities,” she says.

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