WPP sets JWT/O&M merger plan in motion

WPP is paving the way for a market-by-market merger of the media departments in its agencies J Walter Thompson and Ogilvy & Mather.

In the US, JWT and O&M will combine their airtime negotiations this spring, while a full merger of media operations in Austria is planned for next month.

Agency sources believe there may be an announcement about a UK media merger as early as Easter.

Michael Quilty, chief executive of The Network, Ogilvy’s media arm, says negotiations are at different stages in different markets, yet “people in the industry are expecting a single global merger announcement”.

Quilty admits that UK neg-otiations have been made more urgent by the formation of other joint buying points, such as CIA Group’s The Negotiation Centre (MW February 7) and Interpublic’s West-ern International, which launches on March 3.

“The talks on the UK operation are being accelerated,” he adds.

Quilty is holding negotiations over the media merger with Ron De Pear, JWT’s media executive vice-president. Sources close to the two agencies claim JWT is keener on the merger than The Network, but it is now accepted as inevitable. Quilty maintains that no final decision has been made in favour of a UK merger.

In the US, JWT and O&M have merged $1.3bn (800m) of TV buying ahead of the 1997 “up-front” annual negotiations with the main TV networks, which begin in the spring.

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