Who founded the world’s largest agencies? These massive holding companies often seem like a big grey slab of corporate goo, but they were all founded by someone and not surprisingly many are the result of mergers and acquisitions!

Here they are listed in order of size:

WPP founded by Sir Martin Sorrell

1/ WPP founded by living legend Sir Martin Sorrell, having cut his teeth as Saatchi & Saatchi’s finance man he turned his attention to first acquiring shares in a publicly traded company Wire and Plastic Products Plc, taking control, becoming its chief exec and then going on an acquisition spree of marketing companies. We often think of Sir Martin as the inventor of the modern agency M&A strategy. He probably wasn’t but certainly refined it and took this small British shopping basket manufacturer to the top of the advertising world.

Omnicom Group founded by Allen Rosenshine

2/ Omnicom Group was formed in the 1980s from the merger of BBDO and DDB Needham (itself a recent merger) the deal was lead by BBDO CEO Allen Rosenshine who became it’s first Chairman, although the other founders were leaders of marketing agencies with their roots in agencies already decades old. All of the agencies involved were lead by founders that were marketing people not bankers.

Publicis Groupe founded by Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet

3/ Publicis was founded by Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet in 1926, Marcel was known as the inventor of radio advertising and ran Publicis through the second world war becoming part of the French Resistance against the Nazis. His wife Élisabeth Badinter is still Chairwoman of the supervisory board of Publicis at the age of 78. During the 70s Marcel turned the agency into an international communications group with the help of Maurice Lévy who is in his 80s and also still actively involved at the board level.

The Interpublic Group of Companies founded by Alfred Erickson and Harrison McCann

4/ IPG was formed from Erickson McCann, itself a merger in 1930 of Erickson founded by Alfred Erickson in 1902 and McCann founded by Harrison McCann in 1912. McCann died in 1962 in a car crash after leading the company on a huge growth spurt. From 1973 under the IPG brand the company has continued its growth mostly through mergers and acquisitions of smaller agencies.

Dentsu International founded by Mitsunaga Dentsu

5/ Dentsu Group was founded in 1901 by Mitsunaga Dentsu who was a journalist running a news agency supplying newspapers with news. He then started a second business selling advertising to support the newspaper business. Finally merging the two businesses in 1907 Nippon Dempo Tsushin-sha (Japan Telegraphic Communication Co., Ltd). The company was later forced to give up its news operations by the Japanese government so focused on its advertising operations from 1936 onwards.

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