Kansas City’s biggest ad firm VML merging with another leading agency

VML, Kansas City’s largest advertising and digital marketing agencies, confirmed that it will merge with another industry giant, Young & Rubicam, to form VMLY&R.

Both are among the leading agencies under WPP, a British holding company of marketing and public relations firms. The combined firm will employ more than 7,000 worldwide when the merger is fully implemented, which is expected some time in early 2019.

Jon Cook, the chief executive for VML, will assume the top role for VMLY&R.

“I’m thrilled for the VMLY&R team as we start this journey together and harness the best of each agency to deliver culturally relevant world-class work,” Cook said in a statement. “The landscape of our industry is changing rapidly, and we are committed to being an invaluable partner to (chief marketing officers) around the world. I look forward to leading this unprecedented unification of two exceptional agencies.”

The merger is one of the first moves by WPP’s new leader, Mark Read, who took over the multinational WPP earlier this month, taking over for longtime top executive Martin Sorrell.

VML’s merger with Young & Rubicam represents another step in the transformation of what started as an upstart, local advertising firm in the 1990s into a worldwide concern with offices in six continents.

VML launched in 1992 under local advertising veterans John Valentine, Scott McCormick and Crag Ligibel, whose initials formed the company’s name.

The firm today does work on behalf of some of the world’s largest brand names, including Wendy’s, Kraft-Heinz, Ford, New Balance and others. About 900 employees work at VML in Kansas City, most of them at its headquarters at the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport.