WPP’s multi-disciplinary start-up Black Ops to offer customised solutions to marketers

Amrita Nair-Ghaswalla Mumbai | Updated on March 06, 2020 Published on March 06, 2020

Agency giant WPP has launched a start-up designed to address marketers’ business issues. Called WPP Black Ops, the “multi-disciplinary start-up” is the latest from CEO Mark Read, who took charge last September.

Read took over from Martin Sorrell, who quit amid personal misconduct allegations.

Sources said Black Ops will raid WPP-owned agencies across the spectrum, and assemble specific teams that will speed up creative problem-solving across markets. The aim is to co-create innovative solutions for brands, coupled with capability centres with specialised offerings in marketing tech (martech), content, production, commerce, data and analytics.

The Black Ops team will be led by Nihar Das, formerly Managing Partner at MediaCom Asia-Pacific, and Danni Mohammed (strategy consultant for Grey London), even as it collaborates with creative consultant Leo Savage.

A similar move has been attempted in India, with the WPP group mandating specific teams to work closely with top clients like Hindustan Unilever, Google and Colgate, even as it harnesses skill sets from various verticals within the group, including data analytics, technology, media, creative commerce and advertising.

Core team

Read had earlier said WPP has too many companies, and since marketers are not prepared to keep paying for fragmented services and end up doing some of the work in-house, he was in favour of assembling a core team, defying linear agency structures and co-locating different divisions, and leaning on the group’s many ‘invention hubs’.

In Mumbai, Read deliberated on WPP’s ongoing strategy. “We set out a strategy for WPP 15 months ago called radical revolution — moving at the speed of a large complex company and evolving as part of that new vision — even as we put creativity at the heart of our business.”

WPP is working on a new sense of purpose and instilling a culture of creativity, collaboration and openness while attracting and retaining the best people, said the CEO. While the vision is to come up with big ideas generating large-scale impact, the CEO said the group is rapidly responding to the changing dynamics in the marketplace.

Flexibility is core to the strategy, with the CEO noting that a small experiment for one client escalated into a new proposition with wide relevance and appeal.

CVL Srinivas, WPP’s Country Manager for India, also spoke on the need to simplify structure given the many operating companies within the group, and “make ourselves lot more efficient and nimble, since our clients expect us to be. The common theme is to integrate or get people to work together.”

Unilever’s experience

At the event in Mumbai, a small message from Sanjiv Mehta, Chairman and Managing Director of Hindustan Unilever, was played out to underscore the ongoing imminent change at WPP. Unilever was the first client that WPP started working with in a “joined-up manner”.

Mehta commented on how the different arms of WPP had played a stellar role over the years, helping chart a more visible impact in the FMCG major’s South Asian business.

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Published on March 06, 2020
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