Forget the vertical

WPP was, at least initially, formed by acquisition. We have a number of distinct operating companies with offices all around the world, and a parent company of only 400 or so people. So ensuring co-operation and collaboration between verticals – those different businesses and marketing disciplines – can be a challenge. Happily, it is one we have risen to.

Our individual company brands are a huge strength, but increasingly we are also using bespoke teams, drawn from those companies and convened solely to serve a single client, big or small. Integrated teams already advise more than 40 clients worldwide. Among them are Ford, Colgate, Mazda, Bank of America, MillerCoors and Pfizer. More recent additions to the ‘Team’ model include GlaxoSmithKline, Huawei and Chanel.

The second manifestation of horizontality is the Country Manager. We now have 15 country and regional managers, covering nearly 50 countries, whose job is to marshal resources and foster collaboration across all our marketing disciplines for the benefit of clients, to help identify local new business opportunities and potential acquisitions and investments, and support efforts to attract and retain the best talent.

These developments are in response to clients’ changing needs. The ‘Team’ model addresses three key areas. First, clients want access to the best talent and resources wherever they sit within WPP. Second, they want efficiency as well as effectiveness – value for money alongside great work. And third, a bespoke team makes life easier for the client. Everything she or he needs is supplied by one organisation through one point of contact: no more managing multiple agencies.

Horizontality is equally important within WPP. From the start, we have believed in the power of bringing resources together and integrating diverse offerings on a common platform. We have to be alert, fast and non-bureaucratic.

We are not alone in thinking this. In general the biggest challenge for chairmen and chief executives probably remains communicating strategic and structural change inside their own organisations and encouraging a more joined-up approach.

Chapter 7 of 13