WPP launches Centre of Excellence, renews $150m working capital debt facility

WPP AUNZ has launched its ‘Centre of Excellence’, a new division advising clients how to navigate the digital landscape and accessible to all of WPP’s agency brands, a number of which have already been part of integration efforts.

The ‘COE’, as it is known, was flagged as part of WPP AUNZ CEO Jens Monsees’ strategic overhaul of the advertising behemoth, announced in February.

The transformation strategy also involves the continued stripping back of the number of WPP brands, a new leadership model, and ‘campuses’ in every major Australian city, led by existing WPP executives.

Monsees, who stepped into the role last October, said the COE has already been integrated into a number of WPP agencies, and creates “new client opportunities”.

“All client and consumer interactions are based on data and tech capabilities. The COE creates new client opportunities in areas previously serviced by management consulting groups and systems integrators,” Monsees explained.

“We will work with clients to help them grow their business using our creativity, experience and data insight. We have already seen COE integration within AKQA, Group M, Ikon, Ogilvy, VMLY&R, White Grey, Haylix and Wunderman Thompson.”

The Centre of Excellence will be led by Adam Good, executive director of marketing technology, with Faye Mehl, Sean Gillespie and Nhung Nguyen – all three of whom joined WPP earlier this year – acting as strategic partner leads responsible for Microsoft, Adobe and Salesforce partnerships, respectively. They will be responsible for client strategy, client events, and employee training programs.

Adam Good will lead the COE

“Marketing technology is a large client investment that requires continuous iteration. Collaboration between software vendors, internal client teams and agency teams is needed to maximise marketing performance,” Good said.

“Our combination of creative thinking, technology expertise, content production and data insights will deliver greater customer value.

“The responsibility for marketing technology has shifted from the IT department to the marketing department in recent years as software and services moved into the cloud. The COE addresses that.”

WPP AUNZ’s chief data scientist Rob Pardini will lead the Centre of Excellence’s data and research function, while more than 300 employees have been assessed – with plans to “aggressively grow this number” – on their ability to work on the Centre of Excellence to meet client needs.

The business has also renewed its $150m revolving working capital facility. It was due for renewal on 29 June, 2020 and has been renewed until 29 June, 2021, according to a statement lodged with the ASX.

WPP AUNZ has access to syndicated debt facilities of $420m, with a syndicate of five banks. Those facilities include a three-year loan of $270m in addition to the revolving working capital facility of $150m.

All debt facilities are now due to expire on 29 June, 2021, with the company saying it will “evaluate the loan market environment on an on-going basis to determine the appropriate time to refinance the debt facilities”.

Under Monsees’ leadership, the holding group has hired his former colleague Dominik Heitmar into the newly-created role of head of corporate strategy, launched new product development company Big, posted a full-year statutory net loss of $227.57m, and asked its team to take a voluntary pay cut in response to COVID-19.

“As I write, we are yet to understand and quantify the full impact of the virus on the regional economy, our clients and our business. However, what has been evident as it unfolds, is the ability of our business to adapt to this new environment,” Monsees wrote in the holding company’s annual report, which documented his fixed salary of $1.5m, short and long-term bonuses, among other incentives.

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WPP AUNZ’s share price has dropped to 25c, down from 56c this time last year, giving it a market cap of $213m.


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