WPP to bring agencies under one roof with major new Northern HQ in Manchester

David Prior's picture

WPP, the world's second largest advertising group, is close to agreeing a deal to consolidate five of its agencies into a major new Northern base at the former home of Granada Studios.

The £15.3bn business, which employs more than 200,000 staff in 400 separate businesses across 3,000 offices globally, is encouraging greater collaboration across its sprawling agencies by merging offices into larger hubs, and has already colocated brands into new premises in cities including New York and Toronto.

The change of strategy follows a period of turbulence for the company following the abrupt departure of its founder, Martin Sorrell, in April this year.

Prolific North understands that the new Manchester base would bring Mediacom, Code Computerlove, JWT, Wavemaker and one other - possibly Kantar - under one roof.

As we revealed back in June, WPP has been searching for a space in the region of 70,000 sq ft to house its Manchester workforce, which totals around 450 people.

And we understand it has identified Allied London's Old Granada Studios as its new home in the city.

Back in May, plans to revamp the iconic former Granada Television headquarters were given the go-ahead by Manchester City Council.

Another of WPP's brands in Manchester, The Farm Group, is opening a new 25,000 sq ft facility at Allied London's ABC Buildings, part of the £1.35bn Enterprise City masterplan for St. John’s in Manchester of which Old Granada Studios is also a part. 

The Farm Group is opening a new 25,000 sq ft facility at Allied London's ABC Buildings

Moving its other Manchester-based brands to the development would therefore make logistical sense for WPP.  

WPP has refused to comment on our report, but should the move be officially confirmed, it would follow the example of rival Omnicom Group in consolidating offices.

In May, we revealed that four of its agencies - TBWA/Manchester, PHD, The Marketing Arm and TRO - were moving from Didsbury to a new Northern base at Canada House in Manchester city centre.

That move involved around 120 staff, around a third of the size of WPP's projected move.

But in the months since Sorrell left, Omnicom has actually overtaken its rival as the world’s biggest marketing and advertising services group by market capitalisation, with WPP's share price down by a quarter since April.

The news would however be a further shot in the arm for Manchester's reputation as a destination for the world's biggest global brands.

Only last week, tech giant Amazon confirmed it would be setting up base at Hanover House in the city, hiring 600 tech, digital and R&D roles.

Others, including The Hut Group, Booking.com and Moonpig, have recently invested heavily in new Manchester operations, and there are strong rumours that at least one other global tech brand is poised to open in the city.

Later this month, Manchester will also discover whether it has beaten Leeds and Birmingham to host Channel Four's new regional headquarters.