Merger of WPP AUNZ’s Switched On into AKQA completed

The merger between WPP AUNZ agencies Switched On and AKQA is now complete, 12 months after it was announced the two agencies would come together.

Under the new structure, Switched On managing director, Chris Hitchcock, has become the AKQA’s MD of media, reporting into Asia Pacific managing partner Brian Vella.

Hitchcock said aside from a number of hires made in the business, “no other alterations or restructures to the business other than the change in branding” had been made, and that all Switched On employees retained their current titles and remits, under the AKQA name.

AKQA’s MD Chris Hitchcock and Asia Pacific managing partner Brian Vella

The completion of the merger means that the Switched On name will no longer be in use.

At the time of the announcement, WPP AUNZ said the decision to merge the two companies came as a result of increasing demand for “comprehensive digital solutions that help define, find, connect and inspire customers across all brand interactions”.

The merger has brought Switched On’s digital marketing and media capabilities into AKQA’s experience design business.

Hitchcock explained: “When Switched On first joined forces with AKQA, it brought together a powerful combination of media, tech, data and design capabilities, literally under one roof.  It’s a combination that’s clearly been welcomed by the market, and resonated with clients, with demand for our joint capabilities continuing to grow at a rapid rate.

“Based on that success, the time is now right to put the finishing touches on this move and formally retire the Switched On brand after 13 successful years. We’re incredibly proud of our history, our work, our staff, our clients and partners under that banner. Our partnership with AKQA has been hugely successful, and driven by a shared set of values, beliefs and vision for the future, now is the time to take the final step and share its name.”

Vella added: “We know that as the worlds of marketing, technology and CX rapidly converge, as do physical and digital worlds, the need to deliver holistic brand experiences has never been greater.

“The past 12 months has clearly demonstrated the combined strengths of the Switched On and AKQA teams, and the value that comes with designing and connecting more touch points along the customer journey. Our joint success and double-digit growth to date has been outstanding. I’m thankful for everyone’s attitudes and abilities to bring this together so positively.”

Since the announcement of the merger in July last year, AKQA has launched a new media capability in New Zealand and bolstered its media services in Melbourne.

Earlier in the year the agency hired Sive Buckley as Melbourne client partner from CHE Proximity and Aryeh Sternberg as Australian director of media and technology in Sydney.

In February, WPP AUNZ CEO, Jens Monsees, unveiled his ‘transformation plan’ for the business that will strip back the number of brands in its portfolio, focus on digital and technological capabilities of its agencies, and move to a ‘campus’ model in every major Australian city.

Monsees said the merger of Switched On and AKQA was ‘the perfect example’ of how the holding company is simplifying its business.

“In line with our new strategy, the combined capabilities of these teams truly provide the ability to craft experiences that are transformative, distinctive, and tuned to ROI. They also represent WPP AUNZ’s focus on providing expertise across the key areas of commerce, experience and technology, backed by the best of data, creativity and innovation. We’re excited to see the final stage of this merger come to fruition and look forward to AKQA’s continued success,” Monsees said.

Monsees was appointed as CEO of WPP AUNZ in May 2019, and took the helm of the business in October.

In recent years WPP AUNZ has seen a number of mergers. In May 2017, The White Agency merged with Grey Group Australia to create White Grey. In September 2018 Y&R and VML were merged to create VMLY&R, and a month later WPP announced it was merging JWT and Wunderman to create Wunderman Thompson. In September last year its was announced public relations agencies PPR and BCW would merge under the latter’s brand.


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