wpp unveils superunion


WPP unveils ‘Superunion’

Five agencies have come together to form the brand – Superunion – to offer global branding. Superunion was unveiled by WPP, which first announced plans to unite the five agencies in September 2017. Superunion has described the branding agency network as a next-generation global brand agency that can offer a wider, more connected range of strategic and creative services and reach a broader spectrum of critical audiences than its competitors.

The agencies under the brand include Brand Union, The Partners, Lambie-Nairn, Addison and VBAT. Except VBAT, which is a packaging design shop that will continue as a brand within the group, all the names of individual agencies will be replaced by Superunion. Simon Bolton, who headed Brand Union, is global executive chairman of Superunion.

The group has a global presence with 23 offices spanning 18 countries which include the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, the U.S., Singapore, Brazil, South Africa and Spain, among others. Its clients include Diageo, Fifa, Ford, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch and Vodafone. The global chief executive of Superunion, Jim Prior said that the new agency is less hierarchical and there have been changes in some roles, adding that it is structured more like a management consultancy. Earlier, Prior ran both The Partners and Lambie-Nairn.

Prior said that designing and branding was not just a fringe part of marketing services and can be applied at the centre of the business for clients where it can affect things like innovation, product and service, recruitment and retention, culture change, people’s experience of the brand, and the driving purpose of the organisation. He added that the company’s business is not designing a logo.

While the legacy Brand Union business of Superunion provides half of its revenues, its other four agencies provide the remainder of revenues.

Out of the group’s total staff of 750, nearly 250 work in London, 100 in the Netherlands, 60 in Germany, 50 each in New York, Singapore, Brazil and 40 each in South Africa and Spain.

However, there is no market in the world where all of the five agencies have operated and Prior said that the merger will create international opportunities and benefit global clients. He added that this is not an organisation that will be defined by country-level strategies and country-level P&Ls. Clients want Superunion to join up strategy in different markets, so they don’t have to. Referring to the time period since WPP first announced plans to unite the five agencies in September 2017, he said that the company has moved at breakneck speed as combining five companies within that timeframe is pretty aggressive. Prior added that the merger will save money in some areas such as property but there will be no job losses and the company is hiring and growing.

After missing revenue forecasts three times last year, WPP has been merging a string of agencies across the whole group to drive greater collaboration, which it calls “horizontality”, and to save money. However, Prior denied that cost-cutting was a driver for the creation of Superunion. It carried out the rebranding in-house as it didn’t want to use an external firm. It used an app-based tool that it often uses for clients during M&A situations to carry out an employee survey, analysing the culture of its different agencies.

Explaining the rationale for choosing the name Superunion, Prior said that what came out strongly as a consistent attribute was a sense of collaborative working and that the name gives the company that blend of ambition and personality.