Wunderman Thompson Global CEO Mel Edwards and Chairman Tamara Ingram

Wunderman Global CEO Mel Edwards (left) will take on the same role at the new agency, while J. Walter Thompson CEO Tamara Ingram (right), will become Chairman. Photo provided by WPP.

Advertising holding company WPP Group said Monday it would merge the venerable creative shop J. Walter Thompson with the data- and direct-marketing-oriented Wunderman to form a new agency, which it says will offer “end-to-end solutions… at a global scale.” 

“Wunderman Thompson is a formidable combination,” WPP CEO Mark Read said in a statement, “bringing together the capabilities our clients are demanding – award-winning creativity alongside deep expertise in technology, data and commerce – in a single organization. “

Data before creative. Leading with the Wunderman brand, whose roots in direct marketing are decidedly less glamorous than the Mad Men-esque creative brand J. Walter Thompson, speaks volumes about how WPP seeks to position itself for its clients — it wants to be creative, but driven by data rather than by more nebulous “big ideas.”

“To achieve transformative outcomes, clients today need inspiration that is rooted in data-driven insight,” said Mel Edwards, the current global CEO of Wunderman who will take the same title at the new agency. “Wunderman Thompson offers precisely what clients want: brilliant creativity, expertise in data and sophisticated technology skills.” 

What it means for marketers. The reorganization affirms the need to focus on marketing technology in today’s marketplace. Noting the profound influence of technology on marketing, the WPP announcement touts “close and long-standing partnerships with Adobe, Amazon, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Salesforce and SAP.” In recent months, Wunderman has beefed up its technology portfolio with two acquisitions: Dutch martech performance company Emark and Amazon consulting firm 2Sales, which helps brands maximize their partnerships with the online retail giant. 

Edwards was just appointed global CEO of Wunderman in September, but previously served as CEO in the UK and EMEA regions. Tamara Ingram, CEO of J. Walter Thompson, will take the Chairman role at the new agency.

Wunderman Thompson, which is expected to be “fully operational” early next year, will employ 20,000 people and operate in 90 markets. They already share a number of clients, WPP says, and the agencies’ sites showcase work for brands like Coca-Cola, Shell, Nestlé, Samsung and ING. 


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