WPP AUNZ advertising & marketing assignments

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WPP AUNZ is the Australian marketing services group built from what was originally the second agency launched by Australia's most celebrated ad man, John "Singo" Singleton. After selling his first agency, SPASM, to DDB in the 1970s he spent several years out of the industry before launching John Singleton Advertising in 1984. A decade later, he formed a partnership with WPP to assume control of, first, the latter's then-struggling Ogilvy outpost in Australia and later JWT and Mindshare as well under the banner of STW Group: an acronym for Singleton, his business partner Russell Tate and minority partner WPP. Other acquisitions followed, making STW Australia's largest homegrown marketing services group. Singleton cashed in his remaining shares in 2006; Tate departed in 2011. Yet despite its size the group suffered an alarming slump in performance in 2014. That eventually prompted WPP to acquire majority control at the end of 2015, creating what is now WPP AUNZ. This combined STW's existing operations with all WPP's other agencies in Australia and New Zealand. At its peak, the combined business oversaw a collection of around 75 separate agencies, comprising local outposts of all the group's major international networks as well as multiple ANZ-only specialist marketing agencies. Gradually, though, there has been a consolidation of that widely spread portfolio. In the biggest such step, local PR & corporate communications giant PPR was merged in 2019 into the parent group's larger Burson Cohn & Wolfe network. Performance remained challenging, reflecting the troubles being experienced elsewhere by WPP. Long-serving CEO Mike Connaghan took the local industry by surprise towards the end of 2018 by announcing plans to step down, at the same time as the group issued a profit warning against full year results. Former BMW executive Jens Monsees was eventually named as CEO the following summer. Towards the end of 2020, WPP launched an offer to acquire the shares it didn't already own in its Antipodean partner. That proposal was approved by WPP AUNZ shareholders in April 2021; CEO Jens Monsees departed the business soon afterwards. Revenues for 2020 slipped to a multi-year low of A$612.3m (approx US $422m), down 30% since 2017. Another multi-million-dollar impairment charge resulted in a second consecutive net loss of A$149m. For 2021, following its absorption in to the parent group, WPP didn't split out figures for AUNZ. However, it was the only one of WPP's 13 major global markets to report a decline (-2.2%) in quarterly organic revenues for 4Q.

Capsule checked 8th April 2021

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Recent stories from Adbrands Update:

Marketer Moves 31st Jan 2022: New country president at WPP AUNZ. See Marketer Moves (members only).

Marketer Moves 29th Jul 2021: New CEO at GroupM ANZ. See Marketer Moves (members only).

Marketer Moves 21st May 2021: New CEO to be confirmed at WPP AUNZ. See Marketer Moves (members only).

Adbrands Daily Update 15th Feb 2021: WPP AUNZ took the first steps towards further consolidation of its portfolio. Local agency Ikon Communications is to be absorbed into the local media operations of digital agency AKQA, which was itself merged with Grey's Australian outpost late last year. The Ikon name is to be dropped in favour of AKQA Media. Ikon was originally launched in 1999 as an independent media agency, with CommBank as its founding client. It was acquired by what was then STW Group in 2006 after a bidding battle with Omnicom and Aegis, becoming a second-string media agency behind STW-controlled Mindshare. The business was expanded in 2015 to offer integrated and creative services following its absorption of sister agencies Moon and Shift, but then refocused on media only a few years later.

Adbrands Daily Update 30th Nov 2020: WPP launched an unsolicited offer to acquire all the shares it doesn't already own in WPP AUNZ. Currently the British group has 61.5% of its Australian counterpart, which was itself created from the partial takeover of what was originally local group STW. A statement from WPP cited "the current level of economic uncertainty in the regions in which WPP AUNZ operates" and their "weak trading conditions". However, said WPP, "our ability to deploy resources and assist the business is limited by the current shareholding structure. We believe that we are best able to support WPP AUNZ in maximising its potential by moving to 100% ownership." It has offered A$0.55 per share in cash, a premium of a little over a third above WPP AUNZ's current undisturbed price, and more than two-thirds above the average price over the past six months. The Australian group said it is considering the proposal and will respond in due course. [Updated 17th Dec: WPP AUNZ agreed to recommend the buyout to shareholders after WPP raised its offer to A$0.70 per share, valuing the Australasian business at A$717m.]

Adbrands Daily Update 24th Feb 2020: WPP is due to publish annual results for 2019 later this week. The news from part-owned Oceania arm WPP AUNZ doesn't bode well for the parent group's overall performance. WPP AUNZ reported net sales down 2.6% to A$712.5m but a large impairment charge resulted in a net loss of A$221.9m. The directors cited "challenging conditions", "weak media spend" and "global and local account losses", all of which prompted big write-offs against goodwill, brand names and customer relationships. An accompanying strategy presentation from new CEO Jens Monsees was comparatively thin on concrete steps other than to promise the concentration of agencies in most cities except Sydney and Melbourne into campus operations under a single local management team. As a result, the group will start eliminating some of its smaller separate brands and centralise most back and middle-office operations. "It is a strategy that will significantly change our operating model," said Monsees.

Adbrands Daily Update 27th May 2019: WPP AUNZ named Jens Monsees, currently VP digital & corporate strategy at BMW Group in Germany, as its new CEO. He steps into shoes that were vacated last year by long-serving leader Mike Connaghan. However Monsees is not due to take up his new position until October 2019. John Steedman remains interim CEO until then.

Adbrands Weekly Update 25th Oct 2018: Mike Connaghan announced his resignation as CEO of the separate publicly quoted WPP AUNZ division that houses all the group's Australasian agencies. He has spent 25 years at the group and its predecessor STW. "It has been an absolute honour to lead WPP AUNZ for the past decade, from the days of STW Group through to the recent transformational merger with WPP AUNZ. But now that merger is complete, it is time for new leadership." He will depart in March 2019. His departure was followed by a warning that revenues and profits will both be below guidance for the current year. In a statement the group said, "Our digital, PR and media businesses are strong and are all experiencing growth in the year. However, this growth has unfortunately been offset by the underperformance of certain production businesses and creative agencies, with some 60% of the reported decline against 2017 attributed to just two businesses. The turnaround and restructure of these businesses is well advanced." The businesses in question were not named. Trade source B&T speculated that Connaghan's resignation was because "he had been tasked with breaking up the company – something he was particularly loath to do."

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