J.Walter Thompson opened for business in 1864. Unilever has been a client for more than 115 years. It still proudly displays its 150th anniversary illustrated History of Advertising on its website. On that anniversary in 2014, it abandoned the acronym, JWT, by which it had been known for decades and has been known as J. Walter Thompson ever since. Now it is to be known as Wunderman Thompson. The oldest ad agency in the world is merging with its digital WPP stablemate, Wunderman.
Wunderman was founded by Lester Wunderman 60 years ago, in 1958, as the first direct marketing agency. Its service now include brand strategy, consulting, ecommerce and data analytics.
The new agency will be a “creative, data and technology agency”, WPP stated, “distinctively positioned as a provider of end-to-end solutions – through creative, data, commerce, consulting and technology services – through global scale.”
It will consist of 20,000 employees in 200 locations across 90 markets worldwide. From January, it will have its headquarters in J. Walter Thompson’s offices on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan, New York.
The two agencies share some clients, such as Bayer, Shell, Nestle, Johnson & Johnson and Unilever but the merger is part of WPP’s response to a new wave of competitors, including consultancies and a new media environment, which includes digital giants, Facebook and Google.
Mel Edwards, who became global chief executive officer of Wunderman in September will become global CEO of Wunderman Thompson. Tamara Ingram, worldwide chief executive officer of J. Walter Thompson will become chairman. Regional leadership decisions will be made over the next year and the new logo will be revealed soon.
l-r: Mel Edwards & Tamara Ingram
This is the second major merger that WPP chief executive officer, Mark Read, has enacted since he took the helm in September. VMLY&R also combined a digital network with an older, more traditional agency.