Restructuring of agencies has been an ongoing process in the advertising world. But last week’s announcement by WPP that it is combining two of its big creative agencies, Wunderman Thompson and VMLY&R, and calling the merged entity VML has shaken and stirred the industry in India. Both agencies were products of earlier mergers — VML with Young & Rubicam and Wunderman with J Walter Thompson (JWT). But what has upset and riled ad folk in India about this particular re-organisation is the demise of the storied Thompson brand, one of the oldest names in advertising.
Old timers recall how if HUL was called the CEO factory, then Hindustan Thompson Associates (HTA), the early avatar of JWT in India, was the University of Indian Advertising. In 2018, when JWT became Wunderman Thompson, there were murmurs about how one of the most iconic agencies in advertising, created way back in 1864, was losing its identity. But now absolutely nothing remains of the legacy brand name that created some of the most memorable campaigns. JWT was the oldest multinational agency in India, having set foot here in 1929. It was JWT that was behind the classic Air India Maharaj mascot and the Pepsico’s Yehi Hai Right Choice Baby disruptive ad. Change is inevitable and all good things have to end — but nobody could have foreseen that JWT would fade away like this.