WPP to merge JWT, O&M media operations worldwide

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LONDON -- WPP Group plc is on the brink of announcing the merger of its J. Walter Thompson and Ogilvy & Mather media operations in the U.K. and beyond.

The long-expected move, which follows the teaming up of those units in the U.S. last April, is expected to be formally announced early next week, along with a new name that does not include any of the agencies' current branding.

The new structure, which will be put in place in the first quarter of 1998, will kick in first in the U.K., followed very quickly by several other Western European markets. It will then roll out gradually on a market-by-market basis and is expected ultimately to encompass the whole of Europe and South Africa, plus Asia and Latin America.

The combined operation will then be the largest media buying operation in the world.

Dominic Proctor, chief executive of JWT London and Mandy Pooler, currently managing director of O&M's media operation, The Network, are expected to take leading roles within the new organization. Proctor is thought to have been offered the European management position and Pooler the top U.K. job.

No-one at WPP, O&M or JWT was prepared to talk about the impending announcement.

Behind the move is WPP's need to provide specialist media services, in line with market demand. The new outfit will seek out media-only business from new clients as well as service existing accounts. It also gives JWT and the network more buying power and puts WPP in a more powerful position in a sector that is witnessing rapid consolidation into fewer hands.

Last June, WPP paid $16.6m for a 12.5% stake in CIA Group, Europe's second biggest independent media buyer. WPP said at the time that the purchase was just an investment.

Copyright September 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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