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VML (US)

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VML is a highly regarded creative agency, part of the Young & Rubicam group within WPP, operating alongside Y&R and Wunderman. Traditionally regarded as a digital shop, it is increasingly positioned as a full service agency. Still headquartered in its original home of Kansas City, Missouri, it has established a global footprint since its alignment with Y&R. At least six new outposts were established in 2013 alone, including offices in Japan, in Poland (through a partnership with local group Heureka), in China (through the acquisition of local agency IM2.0, now VML ) and in South Africa, through local agency Native, now Native VML. By mid 2016 there were 28 offices in 15 countries. In September 2018, WPP announced the merger of VML with larger sister Y&R to form VMLY&R, led by the digital agency's management team.

Clients

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Brand & Activities

By the end of 2017, VML's network had expanded to 29 offices in 15 countries, including ten outposts across the US. Though traditionally positioned as a digital agency, VML has gradually evolved into a full-service agency since 2015, picking up an ever-expanding list of agency-of-record appointments. During 2015, for example, it was named as AOR for Motorola and Keurig, followed by Wendy's, Electrolux and New Balance the following year, and fashion retailer Express and Russell Stover chocolates in 2017. Also that year, VML absorbed standalone WPP-owned Rockfish Digital, which continues to operate as a separate unit under the VML umbrella. Advertising Age estimated combined revenues of $320m in 2016, including $220m in the US.

Matt Anthony, previously global chairman, transferred to parent Y&R in 2013 as North America CEO. Jon Cook is now CEO, supported by a team that includes Eric Campbell (president), Debbi Vandeven (global chief creative officer), Craig Braasch (COO) and Chuck Searle (chief client officer). Only one of VML's three original founders, Scott McCormick, retains links with the agency, most recently as chief vision officer. Since 2014, he has reduced his involvement to non-executive consultancy.

The agency was founded in Kansas City in 1992 by John Valentine, Scott McCormick and Craig Ligibel, former directors of Valentine-Radford, then the city's #2 agency. Their original idea was to create a traditional full service advertising agency, but to keep overheads low by outsourcing much of the work to freelancers. The agency moved into web-based marketing mid-decade, and reduced its exposure to traditional offline marketing in 1998 by selling a subsidiary office in Minneapolis to Interpublic's Carmichael Lynch, then its partner on the NorthWest Airlines account. At around the same time, partly to strengthen ties with that client, it moved to unusual new office space in Kansas City's historic Charles B Wheeler airport. That remains its global HQ to this day. In 2001 VML, by now primarily an interactive agency, was acquired by WPP and was partnered with direct marketing network Wunderman to support what was then shared client Burger King. Co-founders Valentine and Ligibel left the business in 2003.

In 2002, VML acquired majority control of Studiocom, an interactive agency with offices in Atlanta, Los Angeles and Bogota, Colombia. The two brands initially continued to operate separately, but the purchase served as a springboard for further international expansion. In 2006, WPP's Goodtechnology interactive agency in London, previously a unit of Mediaedge:CIA, was established as the London office of VML, initially under its original name. It later adopted the new name GT, and officially relaunched as VML London in 2009. Two years later, the group acquired a majority stake in Singaporean digital consultancy Qais, now VML Qais, which has expanded a subsidiary network into India and Indonesia. The first Australian office opened in Sydney at the beginning of 2012.

Last full revision 8th January 2018

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