As new WPP CEO Mark Read takes the reins of the world’s largest marketing services holding company, another part of his vision for its future is becoming clear.
The restructuring of WPP Health & Wellness is the latest example of Read’s strategy of simplifying the London-based holding company and its many subsidiaries, said Mike Hudnall, global head of WPP’s new health practice.
“The overall strategy that Mark Read has been unfolding is designed to create a simpler, more powerful WPP that’s easier to navigate,” said Hudnall, previously CEO of WPP Health & Wellness. “We’re reducing the number of brands, integrating our capabilities so we can provide a better offering for our clients and provide more agile access to talent.”
With the WPP Health & Wellness brand on the way out, three of the four agencies under that umbrella are being merged into different firms: Sudler & Hennessey with VMLY&R, Ogilvy CommonHealth with Ogilvy, and ghg with Wunderman. The fourth, CMI/Compas, will work with the new WPP health practice led by Hudnall. The resulting firms will look more like WPP creative giants Grey Advertising and JWT, which have integrated health practices, Hudnall explained.
The health reorganization is the second internal merger of agencies since Read was named CEO of WPP in September. Last month, it also combined VML and Y&R to create VMLY&R under former VML chief Jon Cook. For the health agencies, Hudnall said the goal is to combine expertise in the subject matter with digital and creative talent at VMLY&R, Ogilvy, and Wunderman. The reorganization was also driven by clients, who Hudnall said are looking for “higher strategic partnership” from their agencies.
“Our clients’ businesses are incredibly complex,” he said. “We’re changing to meet our clients’ evolving need, and we need to evolve our business, too. Our clients need higher strategic partnership, like innovative data and creative firepower, so we’re integrating our incredible healthcare experience and expertise in science with consumer firepower to create three new integrated capabilities.”
Hudnall said there are no planned staff changes or layoffs as a result of the mergers, which are set to be completed in the first half of next year. He added that he hopes staff from the three health agencies will be able to find more diverse opportunities at the integrated firms.
WPP’s move is also a reversal from the trend of holding companies creating healthcare groups. WPP only brought together Ogilvy CommonHealth, ghg, Sudler, and CMI under the WPP Health & Wellness banner less than two years ago. Meanwhile, Havas also merged its healthcare and health consumer shops under a single group with the launch of Havas Health & You in 2017. Omnicom created its health group in 2016, bringing together 15 health-focused agencies. Publicis also has a dedicated health communications group that holds 13 shops.