In November, holding group WPP announced the merger of direct and digital agency Wunderman and creative agency J Walter Thompson. The merger, to form Wunderman Thompson, means an end to 154 years of the JWT name.
In February, WPP merged two if its PR agencies, Burson Marsteller and Cohn & Wolfe. In the region, Asda’a Burson Marsteller founder Sunil John was named president of Burson Cohn & Wolfe’s Middle East operations. By July, BPG Group, which had been affiliated with Cohn & Wolfe in the region, rebranded its offering into three units: media unit BPG Max, creative and PR unit BPG Orange, and BPG Kuwait. In 2017 WPP media shop Maxus, which had been affiliated with BPG, was merged with MEC to form Wavemaker.
Another WPP merger, in October, saw digital shop VML and creative agency Y&R become VMLY&R. VML had not been present in the MENA region.
Another merger, this time within Publicis Groupe rather than WPP, was between Kekst and CNC. Kekst CNC has offices in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and is headed in the Middle East by regional managing director David Kingsmill-Moore.
In April WPP founder Sir Martin Sorrell stepped down as CEO after 33 years. His resignation followed an investigation into an allegation against him of personal misconduct and misuse of company funds. His successor was announced in September: Mark Read, who had been CEO of Wunderman.
The organisers of the Dubai International Film Festival announced in April that the event would not run in 2018, instead shifting to a bi-annual cycle and returning in 2019.
Dubai-based digital and technology company Future Tech Media in October bought Adzouk, a regional programmatic supply-side network. Future Tech managing director Boye Balogun said the deal can “offer clients a comprehensive solution encompassing content, media and technology”.
Habib Wehbe, the owner of out-of-home supplier Hypermedia formed a holding company, W Ventures, in November, to contain interests across the regional marketing and communications industry. In December, W Ventures launched experiential agency RedPeg.
Campaign’s parent company, Motivate Media Group, partnered with influencer marketing platform Vamp in March. The venture represents a significant expansion of Motivate’s digital footprint and the ability to capitalise on new media trends.
In July the Dubai offices of PR firm Edelman laid off at least 15 staff, including senior management. In 2017 Edelman had laid off about 20 people following the departure of Lucy and Camilla d’Abo, whose Dabo & Co had been acquired by the agency in 2015.