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Both Wunderman and Essence will not be restricted by the hiring freeze imposed within WPP, The Drum has learned.

Chief executive Mark Read is understood to have introduced a group-wide restriction on recruitment in the wake of WPP's full-year profit warning to shareholders two weeks ago.

The hiring freeze was initially reported by Bloomberg, which claimed that an email sent on 26 October told managers to halt hiring. A predicted 2,000 new recruits had being expected to join the company in the coming months.

A WPP spokesperson told Bloomberg: "We’ve made it clear there are priority areas for investment for growth, and these will be unaffected.”

Those priority areas have been identified, perhaps unsurprisingly, as digital agency brands Wunderman – whose new global chief executive Mel Edwards is still seeking her own successor as chief executive for EMEA within the agency – and Essence, which has over 150 roles around the world to fill.

The dictat has also heightened rumours of another potential merger between agencies following the consolidation of Y&R and VML in September. Rumours are that either JWT or Grey will be merged within Wunderman to bolster its creative output. 

Insiders have previously told The Drum that Wunderman is considered central to Read's vision for WPP. Read ran that agency for the last three years before stepping up to the top job at WPP.

Read also recently confirmed longstanding rumours that research business Kantar is up for sale.

The Drum was awaiting a response from WPP at the time of writing.