Last week we learned that WPP had merged AKQA and Gray to form the AKQA Group. Today the holding company announced that it is bringing together the trade and experience agency Geometry and the creative powerhouse VMLY & R. The brand name Geometry will be deleted. The new company is called VMLY & R Commerce and will start official operations on January 1st.
The agency falls under the responsibility of VMLY & R. Beth Ann Kaminkow, who joined Geometry in Spring 2019, will become CEO of VMLY & R Commerce and will work closely with Jon Cook, global CEO of VMLY & R.
While the pandemic has accelerated the demand for branded retail-based solutions and new customer experiences, that wasn't the main reason for merging Geometry, which includes Coca-Cola, GSK, General Mills, Kimberly Clark and Lidl, into VMLY & R. Both Cook and Kaminkow saw the opportunity to bring the two together to further scale, simplify, and highlight each agency's core strengths.
"One of the main reasons (for bringing the agencies together) is that we felt there was an opportunity to create what we believe to be the best performing commercial and advertising agency on a global scale," said Cook.
According to Kaminkow, consumer demand in retail has accelerated rapidly rather than experiencing a decline in business due to the pandemic, and brands have turned their attention to ushering in a new era.
"Experience emerges in the commercial sector," said Kaminkow. "And it becomes a place for branding and massive consumer engagement." Kaminkow also indicated that the potential involvement of other agencies through the merger of existing businesses or the acquisition could feed into future plans.
"This can make this a very powerful trading powerhouse for customers," she said.
There are no noticeable gaps to fill with geometry connecting VMLY & R. Each has a global scope and multiple clients are shared. Another consideration for the new agency, according to Cook, was harnessing the momentum, as well as its place in the marketing ecosystem.
"I understand that relevance is (important)," he said. "Without a full commerce component, you cannot be relevant as an agency of any magnitude. This becomes a top notch retail company, as does the brand and customer experience (which we already run as an agency). We believe we have one of the most relevant offerings in of the industry. "
Kaminkow noted that clients are asking agencies like hers for more strategy and advice in the new trading era. Merging the agency into VMLY & R made sense as it created a more seamless experience for customers. The merger also meets the demand for relevance as it creates more equity for the newly formed agency.
"Rather than focus on strengthening geometry – and having another big brand for WPP – it makes sense to use VMLY & R, which already has massive equity, and focus off-site to provide a seamless customer interface to create, "said Kaminkow. "There is a great opportunity to dimension our offerings."
It is unclear how the move will affect staffing levels. Kaminkow referred to "some back office efficiency benefits" but made no further comment. Still, she and Cook are optimistic that both cultures, focused on building the next generation of trading agencies, can coexist well.
"Our intent is for (VMLY & R Commerce) to be a standalone company but fully affiliated," said Cook. "This was not a (forced merger). We took the time to get this right, with the full support of WPP leadership including (CEO) Mark Read. This (merger of companies) was a decision, not something to which we react. "