Global advertising major WPP just announced that it will phase out single-use plastics in all of its 3,000+ agency offices and campuses worldwide by 2020. However, WPP's history with plastic is a lesser known truth. In its original acronym, a 'P' actually stood for Plastic.
WPP originally stood for Wire and Plastic Products, a name too strange for an advertising network. Reports suggest that Wire and Plastic Products was acquired as a corporate "shell" by Sir Martin Sorrell in 1985, after leaving Saatchi & Saatchi to grow his business.
"We were looking for a firm that had a simple manufacturing process, that had not lost money and we could understand and could work with. It had to have a good freehold property, so no stresses and strains, no debt and we alighted on Wire and Plastic Products," Sorrell was quoted saying in an interview.
In 1987, Wire and Plastic Products was simply renamed 'WPP', with Sir Martin as its chief executive. WPP grew over the following three decades, initially through large acquisitions and subsequently through growth alongside smaller-scale mergers and acquisitions.
Today's WPP includes Kantar, GroupM, Ogilvy, Wunderman Thompson, Y&R, Grey group and others in the advertising and communication space.
Skip to 2019, while Sir Martin Sorrell resigned from his post as the CEO of WPP last year, the plastic connection lives on as Delfinware. Delfinware Household Products, a British wire and plastic products business, was established in 1969 and is a subsidiary of the WPP Group. It specialises in wire carriers and racks for the kitchen, bathroom, laundry and living spaces.
Reportedly, although Delfinware's revenues accounted for a minute fraction of WPP's £15.6 billion business, Sir Martin Sorrell, WPP's then CEO, retained it "for sentimental reasons".
In its latest move, WPP signed the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, led jointly by the UN Environment and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, thus endorsing the vision of a circular economy for plastic in which it is designed never to become waste or pollution.
Mark Read, CEO of WPP, says, "Our industry has tremendous collective power to bring about change for the better, but our efforts have to begin at home. Taking the plastic out of Wire & Plastic Products by phasing out single-use plastics in our offices is just the first step. People expect companies to act responsibly and help them live more sustainably and our clients look to us to help them deliver brands with purpose. We look forward to working with partners across the industry and using our creativity, insight and scale to make a difference."
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