WPP's OgilvyAction, Malone merge

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OgilvyAction, the consumer activation unit of ad agency Ogilvy & Mather, has merged units with JWT's Malone Advertising retail marketing division to form JWT/OgilvyAction. The agency will focus on integrated retail marketing and experiential initiatives in North America.

The firm's services will include direct response advertising, digital activation, shopper marketing, research, analytics and measurement. OgilvyAction will continue to serve legacy clients using that name, while Malone will do so under brand JWT Action.

The agencies began discussing a joint venture after working together on shopper marketing duties for CPG company Kimberly-Clark.

“One of the people at Kimberly-Clark said, ‘If Ogilvy has half of it and Malone has half of it, wouldn't it be great if we could put them together?'” said Fred Bidwell, executive chairman of the new agency and former president of Malone. “That was the ‘ah-ha' moment where we thought, ‘we can do that.'”

Bidwell is sharing agency leadership responsibilities with Sheila Hartnett, CEO of OgilvyAction for North America, who is serving as the venture's chief executive. The agency's board of directors is split evenly between executives from Ogilvy and JWT, which are separate agencies under holding company WPP Group. The venture's board of directors includes Bob Jeffrey, global CEO of JWT, Miles Young, CEO of Ogilvy & Mather, and John Seifert, chairman and CEO of Ogilvy & Mather North America.

The agency, which formally launched December 20, has more than 400 full-time employees and 3,000 part-time staffers, with offices in New York, Chicago and Akron, OH. Initial clients include Kimberly-Clark, American Express and SC Johnson. No layoffs will occur as a result, said Bidwell. The agencies began the combination process in July, he added.

Bidwell compared the endeavor to WPP's Team Detroit agency partnership.

“This is really about what the big agency holding companies have talked about for a long time but have had a hard time delivering on – putting together capabilities in a fluid way and responding to the needs of clients,” he said. “WPP has been a leader in this. Its first one was Team Detroit, which was built from five agencies for Ford, and has become a strong standalone agency with many clients besides Ford.”

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