Design Bridge acquired by WPP

The sale of the independent brand consultancy will see it retain its creative independence and management, while it has also revealed plans to expand to Shanghai.

Sir Martin Sorrell, WPP. Photo by Phil Adams

Brand consultancy Design Bridge has been bought by advertising giant WPP.

The acquisition was announced today (23 August), and will see the formerly independent consultancy become part of WPP’s branding and identity group, which generates revenues of almost $400 million (£312 million) and employs 2,000 people globally.

Founded in London in 1986, Design Bridge has expanded to include studios in Amsterdam, New York and Singapore, and currently employs around 400 people.

The consultancy reported revenues of £40m in its financial results for 2016. Its clients currently include Diageo, Unilever, Mondelēz and Dulux owner AkzoNobel.

The consultancy cites its ambition for further expansion as one of the main reasons for its decision to approach WPP directly in order to sell the business, and has revealed plans to open an office in Shanghai.

“Up until now, our founders and managing team have been supporting and actively involved in all of those activities,” says Design Bridge group marketing director Birgitte Woehlk.

“High creative standards”

“In order to continue that growth, build further and be able to service our clients we need to be able to expand into other markets. We really needed a global partner that could provide the extra resources, local knowledge, and the people power and financial power to be able to do that,” Woehlk adds.

Design Bridge will be operating as an autonomous company within the WPP group, continue to be run by the same management team and remain in its London headquarters, as well as retaining creative control over its clients and projects.

“We set ourselves very high creative standards, and that’s what WPP is buying into,” says Woehlk. “It knows just how successful we are and how much our clients value the creativity that we offer.”

She adds: “It’s a big change having been privately owned for so long, but actually the only thing that changes is the ownership, everything else remains the same.”

Design Bridge joins a number of other design businesses that are part of WPP group, including Brand Union, The Partners, Fitch, Coley Porter Bell, Landor and Lambie Nairn.

The acquisition was announced following WPP’s half-year financial results today, which saw a fall in sales and a reduction in its full-year growth forecast.

The value of the acquisition is undisclosed.

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