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Walgreens Boots Alliance teams with ad giant WPP

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Sweeping partnership to run global marketing, PR, communications

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) Inc. has teamed up with global advertising and public relations giant WPP plc in a wide-ranging marketing and communications partnership for its businesses and brands.

WBA-WPP partnership

WPP CEO Martin Sorrell and Walgreens Boots Alliance co-chief operating officer Ornella Barra and CEO Stefano Pessina announce the companies’ sweeping advertising, PR and marketing partnership.

WBA said late Tuesday that WPP will operate and develop multiple marketing and communications channels for its retail and wholesale divisions and its health and beauty product brands.

On the retail side, those businesses include WBA’s Walgreens and Duane Reade drug stores in the United States and Boots pharmacy, health and beauty stores in the United Kingdom. The company’s wholesale operations include Alliance Healthcare, which distributes pharmaceutical, medical and health care products in Europe. WBA’s leading health and beauty brands include No7, Botanics, Liz Earle and Soap & Glory.

A team of WPP agencies, dubbed “Team WBA,” will provide enterprisewide services as traditional and digital advertising, media investment management, promotional and relationship marketing, public affairs, media relations and communications.

The partnership also calls for WPP to set up hub offices for Team WBA in Chicago, London and New York to support WBA and its businesses, including Walgreens, Boots and Alliance Healthcare.

“We are very pleased to confirm this new partnership with WPP and the creation of Team WBA. We have grown rapidly — so, too, have our marketing and communications needs. And this multidimensional model and new way of working will better support our vision for the company and future growth plans,” Stefano Pessina, executive vice chairman and chief executive officer of WBA, said in a statement. “This more integrated way of working will help us to strengthen brand recognition, while unlocking potential synergies, creating increased efficiencies and helping streamline our activities globally.”

WBA and WPP said the formation of the partnership comes after a review process that began early last year. With offices in London and Dublin, Ireland, WPP is the world’s largest advertising and communications services group, with billings of $73 billion and sales of $19 billion. It has 200,000 employees in more than 3,000 offices across 113 countries.

“We look forward to partnering with Walgreens Boots Alliance to help further enhance what are already iconic brands in the health and well-being category,” WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell stated. “Team WBA will be a custom solution that draws together the talent and resources from across WPP to develop effective communications that will differentiate WBA and drive results.”

The advertising, marketing and PR partnership comes as WBA’s business holdings are set to expand in a big way. The company is continuing talks with the Federal Trade Commission for approval of its deal to acquire Rite Aid Corp., which would make Walgreens the largest U.S. drug chain, with roughly 12,700 stores (excluding divestitures).

And over the past couple of years, WBA has worked to realize synergies from the integration of Walgreen Co. and Alliance Boots GmbH, which at the end of 2014 closed their merger after announcing in June 2012 a two-step deal to form what they called the world’s first “global pharmacy-led, health and well-being enterprise.” WBA now encompasses more than 13,200 stores in 11 countries and has over 390 distribution centers delivering to 230,000-plus pharmacies, doctors, health centers and hospitals annually in more than 20 countries.

The company, which in March 2013 formed a long-term partnership with drug distributor AmerisourceBergen Corp., is one of the world’s largest buyers of prescription drugs and other health and wellness products.


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