WPP Sets Up Red Fuse to Serve Colgate-Palmolive

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It has set up Team Detroit, Team Mazda, Team Lincoln, and teams for MillerCoors and Bank of America. And now, WPP is adding one more to that list: a team dedicated to longstanding client Colgate-Palmolive.

Ad Age has learned Colgate-Palmolive's agency partners under WPP are teaming up to create one dedicated operating unit to service the packaged-goods giant. The unit, which will merge account teams at Y&R, Wunderman, VML, MEC and GHG will be called Red Fuse Communications. The move comes after a nearly three-decade long relationship in the case of creative network Y&R and media agency MEC, and a 15-year relationship in the case of digital shop VML.

Steve Forcione, who has been charged with overseeing the Colgate account and whose title is WPP Global Managing Partner has been named CEO of Red Fuse. "WPP is merging resources from across its premiere networks into one fully dedicated and exclusive team to help Colgate win on the ground," Mr. Forcione said in a statement, adding that staff aren't averse to the idea. "The many excellent people who work on the account around the world are eager to move to the Red Fuse structure, so they can develop big, innovative campaigns in real time."

As Ad Age reported earlier this year, the approach of a single integrated team servicing a major client's business has had a bit of a renaissance, and the biggest benefactor of that trend has been WPP.

In this particular case, the consolidation may be more about efficiency rather than reducing agency fees, given Colgate-Palmolive this summer was among several packaged goods marketers who said they were increasing marketing spend. It said ad spending was up 4% last quarter from a year ago, and that it planned to accelerate spending in late 2012. Colgate Chairman-CEO Ian Cook has noted the company is gaining share in such categories as U.S. toothpaste and toothbrushes, where P&G is the principal competitor.

The move to the new structure will no doubt be a massive undertaking. According to Ad Age 's DataCenter, Colgate-Palmolive is the 34th-largest marketer in the world by spend, with measured media spending of $1.26 billion. Its brands are sold in 200 countries and include Irish Spring, Softsoap,Ajax, Tom's of Maine and Lady Speed Stick.

In a statement, Nigel Burton, Colgate's CMO said: "It goes without saying that we already have a close-knit partnership with our agencies. But we are excited about Red Fuse because we believe that co-locating all the partners will lead to bigger ideas and better work created and executed smarter and faster."

To start, Red Fuse will merge the existing Colgate account teams in six cities at agencies working on its accounts. Those cities are Hong Kong, Mumbai, Prague, Kansas City, New York and Paris. Next year will be dedicated to rolling out the model to more global locations.

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