VMLYR New Balance

The Showcase 2022


A Relentless Drive to Bolster Capabilities And Build Connected Brands Experiences: VMLY&R's 2022

The agency is betting on "connected brands" as the new mainstream and has expanded its creative leadership

By Creative Salon

In 2021, VMLY&R and VMLY&R Commerce came together to create a new UK powerhouse to help build brands that are connected to people, culture, technology, experiences and to the bottom line - connected brands. Without much fanfare, earlier this year the agency announced a new leadership team with joint CEOs: Justin Pahl (who was appointed from AMV BBDO in 2019) and Michelle Whelan (VMLY&R Commerce UK's CEO).

We caught up with the the two joint CEOs to discuss the agency's year. And, below, Creative Salon gives its take on VMLY&R's past twelve months.

Michelle Whelan & Justin Pahl, joint CEOs of VMLY&R on their agency’s year

What three words would you use to describe 2022?

1. Roller coaster

2. New future

3. Talent

Talk us through some of your agency’s highlights this year?

Clients: Winning SC Johnson globally. 2023 will be about growing SCJ globally, regionally and locally.

Transitioning the TCCC (The Coca-Cola Company) into the business and growing across global and regional charters.

What one thing are you proudest of this year?

It’s the launch of the Home of Connected Brands. From vision to business case to build and the integration of technology into the space.

It really demonstrates the power of connected brands and how clients can connect up their digital and physical ecosytems.

What’s been your biggest challenge?

Getting people comfortable coming back into the office and adapting to new habits and routines.

What are you most looking forward to in 2023?

Seeing all of our hard work take off next year as we continue to grow!

And what one change would you most like to see in our industry next year?

It’s got to be more diverse talent and finding new ways to helps people into this industry.

Creative Salon on VMLY&R's 2022

The agency made a strong start to the year when Anna Vogt arrived as its new CSO, joining from TBWA London to work closely with Justin Pahl and Michelle Whelan and the chief creative officer Laurent Simon.

The agency further amplified its ability to deliver connected brands, when at the start of the year it hired its first chief experience officer. Ben Richards moved from within the WPP network, having previously been EMEA chief experience officer at full-service agency GTB, to take up the new post.

Soon after, CCO Laurent Simon started expanding his department's leadership. He announced the appointment of Dayoung Yun as creative director. Yum had been freelancing at Mother where she created its global campaign for Dubai Tourism, enlisting Zac Efron and Jessica Alba to deliver a series of films designed to look like movie trailers.The agency's creative department also welcomed Zach Speight and Harriet Wiltshire, both from Karmarama. Existing talent Christopher "CJ" Joyce and Perle Arteta were promoted from senior creatives to associate creative directors. In the summer, Marco Bezerra, deputy creative director and head of creative design at Specsavers, joined the agency as executive creative director for its commerce division. Then at the end of the year Laurent hired Frances Cooke and Nick Rowland - from Clemenger BBDO and Havas respectively - as creative directors.

Also part of the team is the formidable Debbie Ellison, the global chief digital officer, VMLY&R Commerce, and inclusion experience UK lead, VMLY&R. She's the woman behind the industry-first space The Home of Connected Brands. Located at WPP’s Sea Containers campus, The Home of Connected Brands helps brands and retailers test and trial connected experiences across hybrid environments to enhance value and engagement at every single touchpoint of life. The space invites brands to innovate with existing and emerging technology across channels. From holographic store catalogues to Whispering Windows softly transmitting brand messages to Microsoft’s Seeing AI technology helping the visually impaired to hear spoken product information.  

Earlier in the year, the agency alsolaunched a '"LinkedIn movement" to get the next creative generation hired. The idea was simple: change your LinkedIn banner to back a young creative by redirecting the attention your profile gets to theirs. VMLY&R also launched an Inclusion Experience Practice, led by Debbie Ellison, to accelerate sustainable cultural change in client organisations, drive business growth and instil creative inclusivity at the core.

VMLY&R also partnered with Ford to launch a mental health initiative, helping Ford bring mental health first aiders directory to construction sites in distinguishable branded Ford vans.

It's 'Connected Brands' story came to life with a few other brand campaigns, including for American fast-food brand Wendy's. Wendy’s unveiled a new look for its iconic redhead, connecting Wendy's to new communities. The painted mural, developed by VMLY&R and the Camden Open Air Gallery, paid homage to the Camden community where Wendy’s was launching.

And the continued popularity of its work for Boots - campaigns that reconnect the retailer to the heart of the nation - are another example that Laurent Simon and his team are finding the space and the confidence to deal with challenging creative ideas while framing them within its 'connected brands' philosophy.

Creative Salon Says: There's a quiet confidence in the way VMLY&R now feels both fresh and progressive. The agency has a clearer proposition and focus that offers something distinctly different from the competition. Next year we will be waiting to hear more about the agency’s loud and proud belief in the transformational power of connected brands.

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