GroupM is ramping up WPP’s efforts to encourage greater collaboration across agencies by merging its disparate brand offices into large, campus-style hubs. It’s a strategy its chief executive believes will be rolled out across the globe to better service clients.
GroupM’s chief executive, Kelly Clark, confirmed WPP has recently signed an agreement to collocate all its agency brands into a single office in Toronto, following the recent opening of GroupM’s new headquarters in New York City.
The media hub in the brand new Three World Trade Centre houses Mediacom, Mindshare, Essence, Wavemaker and Xaxis, as well as Kantar brands, across 700,000 square feet and 14 floors. GroupM had already housed its agencies together in locations such as Amsterdam, while WPP moved its 3,000 Shanghai-based staff under one roof in 2015.
“I do think you’re going to see more and more [agency colocation] as clients expect Group M and WPP more broadly to organize themselves in much more flexible integrated ways,” Clark told The Drum. “There are the obvious benefits of simplicity and efficiency that come with this ... but that’s really not the reason we enter into those arrangements.”
The group hopes the open-plan nature of the sparkling headquarters will encourage greater collaboration between co-workers, clients and inter-agency teams. The modern design, which is packed with open desks, discreet tech and meeting rooms of every kind, aims to support ‘activity-based’ work and offers clients access to a full suite of media expertise in one location.
Kelly said that two sets of clients have physically set up base in the office in the three months since staff began to move in, noting that the space’s large size can accommodate the “ebbs and flows” of team projects.
“They’re asking to use our space for their own internal meetings or meetings with our partners and I think that’s great for collaboration and stickiness with client relationships,” he said.
“And if we receive a brief from a client to launch an important new brand that might require us to bring people from Wunderman, Ogilvy or other parts of WPP into a team setting, [we can] have them physically sit together for three or six months and then be able to move to a different project or back to a different office.”
The CEO added the set-up will also encourage further collaboration between agencies in the building, especially between Kantar or Essence and the bigger media firms.
Furthermore the office houses a dedicated career center, which encourages staff to explore progression opportunities within the wider group – and crucially, not outside of WPP.
All of this raises questions about consolidation. As WPP moves further away from the Sorrell era, rumors of combining agency brands to form stronger offerings have swirled; these were substantiated when it was announced VML and Y&R would merge in September. MEC and Maxus have already joined to form Wavemaker – could stacking the brands just floors away from each other signify there is more to come?
“I honestly don’t think so – certainly in our midterm horizon,” said Clark, adding that he “learned a long time ago not to predict where this business might lead five years out”.
“Clients right now are telling us they want simplicity, integration and they want to make it easier to access the best people, the best tools – whatever’s going to help them win in a crazy competitive business environment. But they’re also telling us they do value choice: a lot of clients want to know they can choose a partner that reflects the way they want to work, that has the right capabilities that culturally feels good. There is still an important role for that in terms of our agencies and how they work.”
He continued: “Other clients are less concerned with that and they just want to know they can pick and choose the very best regardless of which company or brand they might sit in, so I think we need to accommodate both.”