Jan 25, 2024 - Business

WPP to merge BCW and Hill & Knowlton to create comms giant

Illustration of a spotlight shining on two people shaking hands.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

WPP on Thursday said it will merge BCW and Hill & Knowlton, as the advertising and communications company continues to consolidate its internal brands.

Why it matters: The move will create Burson, a communications group that will be one of the largest PR agencies in the world, with more than 6,000 employees.

Details: Corey duBrowa, who joined BCW from Google last year, will serve as global CEO of Burson. Hill & Knowlton CEO AnnaMaria DeSalva will serve as global chairman.

  • The rest of the leadership team will be announced this year.
  • Burson will launch on July 1 of this year, WPP said.

What they're saying: "Hill & Knowlton and BCW are two high-performing businesses with complementary strengths, shared ambitions and many shared clients," said WPP CEO Mark Read.

The big picture: This is the latest round of mergers within WPP, which has long been consolidating its internal brands to streamline operations.

  • The brands themselves have expanded in recent years.
  • In 2018, Burson-Marsteller merged with Cohn & Wolfe to create BCW, while Hill & Knowlton increased its global footprint in 2023 by acquiring Latin American firm JeffreyGroup and German firm 3K Communications.

Of note: WPP holds a majority stake in strategic communications firm FGS Global, which sold a 30% stake to private equity group KKR in a deal valued at $1.425 billion.

  • Global advertising, marketing and public relations agency Ogilvy is part of the WPP portfolio as well.
  • London-based WPP is the world's largest advertising group by revenue.

What to watch: The gap between mega-firms and small, boutique firms is likely getting wider as the consolidation trend continues.

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