DEC 21, 2023

Collaboration Wins: Worldwide Partners Posts Record Year


Worldwide Partners (WPI) is on a roll. At a time when holding companies are consolidating, the 85-year-old independent agency network is expanding its capabilities, client base, and agency roster. 2023 proved a record year in new business for WPI, with pitch wins climbing 215%. This summer, Brand USA, the world’s largest tourism marketer, selected WPI’s independent agency model over a holding company to be its Global Media AOR, giving the network its largest client win. Earlier in the year, Boehringer Ingelheim and French Bee Airlines also tapped the network for multinational assignments. Meanwhile, organic client growth hit 21%.

The wins affirm a plan WPI hatched five years ago to translate the network’s history of global collaboration into a platform for bespoke client solutions. Rather than an agency, clients were increasingly seeking an agency model that could give them specific, relevant expertise and skills in their markets. To provide it, the network needed to include agencies with elite, complementary capabilities that could solve precise business challenges for brand marketers on local, national, and multinational basis. 

Since 2017, the network has grown from 52 agencies in 24 countries to 88 partners in 45 countries with a mix of 41 integrated, 26 specialised, 14 creative and seven media agencies. This year, WPI fortified analytics, creative, digital, PR and experiential capabilities across APAC, EMEA, LATAM and North America by adding Brancher.X (Vietnam), The Beyond Collective (UK), Tigerbond (UK/Canada), The Group (Brazil), Coegi (US), MVRK (US), SPARK (US), Symphonic Digital (US), and The Digital Panda (Canada), while deepening the network’s vertical and audience expertise within B2B, agriculture and the disabled community with the additions of Digital Radish (UK), Noble West (US) and Doable (US).

“Six years ago, more than 90% of our partners were full-service, integrated agencies, which suited top-down global strategies,” said WPI CEO, John Harris, who leads client coordination and network growth. “Today, clients recognise the primacy of local market nuances, so they want industry expertise as well as customised, market-level activations. We’re now able to match talent to task with market-level subject matter experts who thrive within a framework of fluid collaboration. Clients gain the benefits of specialisation without sacrificing the simplicity of a full-service model.”

Brand USA is a case in point. The brand team weighed holding company and WPI merits, then chose collaboration over consolidation. As global media AOR, R&R Partners teams with Ardmore (United Kingdom) to support Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Hylink (China) to support the Asia-Pacific region, and Propeg (Brazil) to lead South America efforts. 

“Winning Brand USA shines a light on independent values in media buying,” said John. “We’re beholden to our clients, not to upfront media commitments. We’re strong negotiators willing to put in the time to unlock premium opportunities in media partnerships, which holding companies often see as a waste of time.”

WPI’s uptick in organic business owes to similar effort. Rather than upselling to increase revenues, partner agencies consistently look to leverage expertise within the network, identifying growth opportunities they could not deliver on their own. 

“Our organic growth is a demonstration of our interdependence,” said John. “Our agencies are not simply members of Worldwide Partners; they are powered by Worldwide Partners. That mindset empowers our agencies to consistently look to one another to add value to our clients. It has resulted in clients trusting us to increasingly activate beyond existing scopes of work.”

Collaboration among WPI partners has increased 333% in the past five years. Harris foresees it will keep climbing as clients want more flexible, transparent solutions with all the creativity, innovation, and scale they need to drive their businesses. 

“Collaboration, integration and acceleration are the new forces of business growth,” said John. “None of these are characteristics of holding company agencies, but they make up the very DNA of independent agencies.”

To John, the future’s lining up with the proof of WPI’s past – collaboration as a motivation, not a mandate. “Our agencies work together because they choose to, not because they have to,” he said. “They recognise that independence is a team sport, and putting the best players on the pitch ensures a win for our clients.”

Written By:
Fred Pfaff