AKQA Media becomes part of GroupM as it merges with Essence

WPP’s AKQA Media is merging with Essence to become part of GroupM, with Pat Crowley appointed as the first Australian CEO. This will be effective 1 January 2022.

Merging AKQA Media into Essence is expected to expand the agency’s capabilities in digital strategy, data and analytics, SEO CRO, social media, creative and content. The merged agencies will operate as Essence across Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney with 250 staff.

Pat Crowley

The move comes after a series of consolidations from WPP, with Ikon and AKQA Media merging earlier this year to form AKQA Media. WPP also merged AKQA and Grey to form a new network model, AKQA Group in late 2020. In Australia, this resulted in White Grey, the WPP (formerly AUNZ) offering from Grey Group, merging with AKQA. This was part of a wider WPP global strategy to focus on “fewer, stronger brands that deliver expert services to clients”.

Lesley Edwards, who was CEO of Ikon, and was appointed CEO of AKQA Media following the merger, will leave the business as a result of the move.

Crowley said: “I was lucky enough to spend time with the Essence team a few years back and it gave me a very good insight into what is a wonderfully exciting tech, data and digitally lead business it is. We’re taking the best capability from within AKQA Media and Essence, supercharging it with the power and scale that comes with the global GroupM network. I’m super excited by what we will be able to create together in this market as part of the globally renowned digital and data focused Essence network.”

Crowley will work alongside Essence leadership team James Graver, Brett Carson, Anna Colnan, Katie-Lynn Guerrero, Jamarr Mills, and Sid Nair, and AKQA Media’s leadership team including Chris Hitchcock, Andrew Burger, Theo Zisoglou, David Gerrie, Jeremy McNamara, Shalyce Mclean, Nathan Pedwell, Sive Buckley and Pamela Riddett. He will also join the GroupM excutive team.

Essence APAC CEO, T. Gangadhar, said: “Australia is a highly exciting market with its advanced marketing, media and technology landscape. I’m delighted that Pat and the AKQA Media team across Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney will be joining our Essence network. With our expanded capabilities, I’m looking forward to Essence delivering transformational, data-driven growth to even more brands across the country. I’ve no doubt that Australia will be a priority market for Essence regionally and globally in our future development.”

Ashutosh Srivastava, GroupM APAC CEO and acting CEO for GroupM Australia until Aimee Buchanan takes on the role in October, said: “This is the next part of GroupM’s strategy in Australia. We’re excited to welcome Pat and the talented team at AKQA Media into GroupM to be part of our mission to shape the next era of media where advertising works better for people.”

“We’re thrilled to continue the agency’s great work with a strong portfolio of clients, and bring them all the additional benefits that being part of our global network can offer to leverage scale to innovate, differentiate and create sustained value for clients through world-class data and tech products.”

AKQA will continue to operate as a strategic design and innovation company under APAC managing partner Brian Vella.

AKQA Media was appointed to World Vision Australia’s media account last month.

Update: This article was originally posted with the headline indicating AKQA, rather than AKQA Media was merging with Essence.


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