Wunderman Thompson, the agency created by the merger of Wunderman and J. Walter Thompson last November, went through a round of layoffs this week, according to several parties familiar with the matter. The change occurred in New York as WPP leadership gathered for a global summit in San Diego.
Spokespeople for both the agency and its parent company declined to comment beyond confirming that chief strategy officer Lulu Laudon has left to pursue other opportunities. “We thank Lulu for her contributions and wish her all the best in her next endeavor,” a representative wrote.
This news marks the second time layoffs have hit Wunderman Thompson since the two organizations came together. The first, which happened last month, affected an estimated 20-plus employees. Recently promoted New York CEO Joe Crump, formerly of Possible, told Adweek at the time that his agency was “reshaping” itself in response to changes in the market and the industry at large.
The number of employees let go is unclear at this time, though multiple parties said a total in the very low double digits included directors and mid-level staff from teams that were formerly part of both Wunderman and JWT. Possible, which is part of Wunderman but only just moved into the new agency’s New York headquarters, was not affected.
Wunderman Thompson remains in the early stages of a global integration, with New York and Seattle the only offices to go through that process. In the latter location, WPP moved to fold Possible and Cole & Weber into the Wunderman Thompson network several weeks ago, with the implication that more such moves would almost certainly follow.
The agency has also not yet filled all open positions on its New York leadership team. Several people who spoke to Adweek on condition of anonymity said that a number of unnamed employees at different levels left voluntarily since the merger. The more highly publicized departures include that of Ben James, former chief creative officer at J. Walter Thompson New York, who recently left to join The New York Times’ branded content studio. The same sources said Wunderman has clearly taken the upper hand within the new structure, and one described the process as a takeover.
On last month’s earnings call, WPP CEO Mark Read acknowledged that the United States remains a particularly challenging region for his company after reporting that year-over-year revenues for North America had declined by 8.5% due to account losses such as Ford, Amex and United Airlines. Despite recent wins like Volkswagen, which went to a team led by Possible, Read said, “It will take time to address the company’s legacy issues, but we are committed to taking all the actions necessary to position WPP for future success.”