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News Analysis 3 Feb 2020 - 3 min read

WPP AUNZ CEO Jens Monsees overhauls to a "Campus" model, new exec teams

By Josh McDonnell - Senior Writer

Following months of speculation, WPP AUNZ boss Jen Monsees has stepped down, marking the first step in the company's transition in a part of the wider global business.

After months of speculation, WPP's AUNZ boss Jens Monsees has laid out his mandate for how the company will look in 2020, as the holding group tilts towards a heavier tech focus and introduces its new 'campus' operating model. 

The campus model will see 'leaders' in markets like Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth take part operational responsibility for all of the WPP brands within each state. The new structure ditches the "horizontality" approach of WPP pushing units autonomously into more client contracts in favour of campus leaders co-ordinating a "client first" approach of delivering any and all capabilities when and how they need it.

It is understood there will be a working relationship between national CEOs of each brand and campus leaders, which will be revealed at the holding group's investor meeting on February 24. There are rumblings the campus model might eventually be rolled out in Sydney and Melbourne, though there is no timetable for any such move.

As part of the changes, Monsees has created three executive committees, each with its own focus across key components of the business. It remains unclear who sits on those committees.

 

Changes

Several key executive roles have emerged as Monsees outlines his roadmap to WPP staff. Stalwart John Steedman will take on a new role as group chief operating officer while AKQA's Brian Vella steps up to become the holding group's technology and revenue boss, along with a merger and acquisition remit. 

It is understood Vella's promotion is in-line with Monsees desire to beef-up the company's investment in e-commerce, martech and beyond. Some industry observers say the performance of AKQA in recent months has been a major driver of new business for WPP, with similarities being drawn between its role within the holding group and that of Dentsu's digital shop Isobar. 

Last month, WPP acquired martech company Dominion in New Zealand, which will subsequently be merged into the wider AKQA business.

“Acquiring Dominion supports our strategy of combining technology and commerce with experience and communication services," Monsees said at the time.

The decision to build a new operational structure with a stronger digital core is a key strategic trend for agency groups, with WPP now joining the race. Earlier this year, Mi3 outlined the changing nature of agency models, with groups including Clemenger, M&C Saatchi, Publicis and Dentsu all heading to a unified structure that incorporates media, creative, digital, UX, CX and social.

Major brands such as Samsung have adopted this approach appointing CHE Proximity to lead a consolidated model to all of its key media, marketing and advertising functions.

“This is definitely the future of working, especially in a market the size of Australia,” argues Clemenger Group CEO Chris Howatson. “The challenge will be who can deliver it. There are only a few agencies who truly can.”

 

The new kids on the campus

At this stage, no names have been revealed as to who is leading which region. It is possible agency brand leaders within the campus will report into both their national CEO, as well as the new campus leader. It is understood the national CEO and campus leader will have their own communications strategy. 

How leaders will operate and interact with national agency management under the campus model, and who has responsibility and oversight over specific operational roles for WPP in each territory will become clearer following WPP's investor briefing on February 24. 

 

Movements to date

WPP's new structure is the culmination of widespread global restructuring over the past 18 months, which has included multiple mergers and sales:

  • September 2018 - Creative agencies VML and Y&R become the first to merge, becoming VMLY&R.
  • November 2018 - the merger of its second batch of creative shops, JWT and Wunderman, spawns Wunderman Thompson
  • January 2019 - Research agencies AMR and Colmar Brunton are also merged, with the AMR name dropped
  • July 2019 - Sydney-based digital marketing and media consultancy Switched On joins the Australian arm of AKQA
  • August 2019 - WPP completes the sale of data and analytics business Kantar to Bain Capital for AUD$4.48bn
     
Across the ditch

Operating under a similar structure and reporting to Monsees is the new NZ management team which comprises of Chris Riley (CEO, GroupM, NZ); Kelly-Ann Maxwell, (CEO Designworks); Luke Pierson (CEO, Wunderman Thompson); and Damian Ferigo, CFO New Zealand, WPP AUNZ.

The NZ management team will take the reins immediately and will work together to manage the remaining WPP AUNZ NZ-based companies, clients and teams.

Riley, Ferigo and Ann Maxwell will be based in Auckland, while Pierson is based in Wellington. Together they will manage all the NZ locations.

As part of the new structure, WPP's NZ managing director, Sven Baker, will step down from his current role and take on the transitional position of non-executive chairman for the region.

"Over the almost two decades Sven has been with the company, he has played a pivotal role overseeing some of NZ’s most successful M&As, has driven growth, spearheaded great campaigns and has worked hard on collaboration with all the brands within NZ and across Australia,” Monsees said.

“In the short time I have been in this market, I have been blown away by the quality of leadership, and talent, that we have across the company. The NZ team has big ambitions and we are excited about the future."

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Josh McDonnell

Senior Writer

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