Tuesday Wake-Up Call: What happens to WPP now? Plus, Walmart's website gets a less Walmart-y redesign

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A company plaque is cleaned outside the offices of WPP in London in August.
A company plaque is cleaned outside the offices of WPP in London in August. Credit: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

Welcome to Ad Age's Wake-Up Call, our daily roundup of advertising, marketing, media and digital news. What people are talking about today: WPP has entered the post-Martin Sorrell era. Now what? "Takeover vultures could soon circle, eyeing portions of WPP's business ripe for the taking," Ad Age's E.J. Schultz and Megan Graham write. That's what some analysts are suggesting. The company's market research business is seen as one potential asset that could be shed. As Liberum Capital Limited said in a report:

"Sir Martin could arguably be called the glue that bound much of WPP together. With his departure, we think the chances of significant chunks of the business being sold off have dramatically increased."

Sorrell spent over three decades building the world's largest ad firm, then suddenly resigned Saturday amid a thus-far-undisclosed investigation by the board for personal misconduct. He was fond of plugging his vision of "horizontality," meaning he wanted the company's various units to work closer together across disciplines, from media to creative and beyond, to serve clients better. As the empire-builder, he naturally wanted to hold his kingdom together and prove its business sense. Now that he's gone, that empire looks more unwieldy. (And can we please stop using the awkward word 'horizontality' now? Please?)
The heirs?: WPP asked Mark Read and Andrew Scott to step up as chief operating officers after Sorrell's exit. Both have been seen as possible successors for Sorrell. Who are they? Ad Age's Megan Graham has some answers.
The original empire-builder: Before Sorrell, there was Marion Harper Jr., who built the first major agency company, Interpublic Group. Ad Age's Bradley Johnson looks at Harper's "1960s Mad Men's buying spree" of agencies, and at his fall from power.

The world's biggest automaker is taking a fresh look at a big piece of its marketing. Ad Age's E.J. Schultz reports that Volkswagen Group "launched a global creative agency review for its namesake brand as executives at the German auto giant look to centralize marketing control and improve VW's image in wake of the 2015 emissions scandal." IPG's Deutsch Los Angeles has held the account in the U.S. since 2009, while Omnicom Group's DDB and BBDO serve the group in some other markets. (The brand's global media business, held by Omnicom's PHD, is not expected to be part of the review, Schultz writes.) According to German magazine Horizont, Volkswagen is looking to be more efficient with its marketing spending. Sound familiar?

Not so Walmart-y
Walmart's online shopping site is about to get a makeover, another sign of the company's battle to woo online shoppers away from Amazon. As The Wall Street Journal reports, "The retailer plans to redesign the site next month by decluttering the product listings, de-emphasizing the Walmart name and using a lot less bright blue." TechCrunch has some screen shots that give a sense of the cleaner, higher-end look; there's no "Walmart" written at the top of the page, there's just the subtle sun-like yellow insignia that the retailer users. TechCrunch also says the site will use more photography of "relatable" real-life moments; the sample page shows two kids eating dinner – they're adorable, in an unforced, un-posed, just-hanging-out sort of way. It feels more lifestyle-focused, and less like a marketplace of inexpensive products.

Just briefly:
From Ad Age's music issue:
Who knew? "Aging rock and country stars have long used music cruises to make an extra buck by luring longtime loyal fans," but younger fans and artists in their prime are getting in on the action too now, writes E.J. Schultz.

Radio song: "Depending on who you ask, radio is either a dying industry or an unshakable cultural force," writes Judann Pollack, who takes a big-picture look at radio for Ad Age's music issue. She also finds out what happens when you get a shout-out by a DJ on a syndicated morning show. And she hangs out with radio DJ Scott Shannon for the 912th episode of his morning show on WCBS-FM, 101.1.

'Oh, For Fox Sake': That's the line on the cover of the New York Daily News, next to a big photo of Sean Hannity. President Trump's longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, said in court that the Fox News host (and frequent Trump cheerleader) was also his client. Hannity tweeted that he never retained Cohen or paid legal fees, though they occasionally had "brief discussions."

Facial recognition: A U.S. judge says Facebook must face a class-action case from people who complain that the social network used facial recognition technology on their photos without their permission, Reuters reports.

TaskRabbit: The handyman-for-hire app owned by Ikea is investigating a "cybersecurity incident," and it temporarily took down its website and app, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Huge: Netflix says it has 125 million subscribers after adding an additional 7.4 million subscribers in the first quarter of 2018. That's a 50 percent boost over the same period last year, CNN notes.

Tronc bounce: Japan's SoftBank "is among several possible buyers for newspaper publisher Tronc," Axios reported, causing Tronc's share price to jump about 11 percent Monday.

Makin' it great?: Ad Age's Jessica Wohl talks to Pizza Hut's U.S. chief brand officer, Marianne Radley, who joined in February and is searching for a new creative agency. "Pizza Hut the brand has lost much of its unique meaning and energy, I think, in the past 20 years," says Radley, whose first job as a teenager in Pennsylvania was washing dishes in a Pizza Hut.

Creativity pick of the day: An Ikea spot from the UK shows ghosts having a rather gloomy party, with all of them dressed in the same blah white sheet. Then come the party-crashers: ghosts wearing cheerful fabric patterns from Ikea. As Ad Age's Alexandra Jardine writes, "the interlopers put on some hip-hop and start body-popping, flipping around the floor, taking selfies and generally livening up the party--although you get the feeling the white-sheet ghosts disapprove somewhat." The spot was directed by Blink's Dougal Wilson for Mother London; check it out here.

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