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The Showcase 2023

Merger. New Agency Name. Leadership Change: Wunderman Thompson's 2023

Wunderman Thompson boss Pip Hulbert has emerged as UK CEO of WPP’s VML, which now includes Wunderman Thompson and VMLY&R

By creative salon

No one could have predicted the merger between Wunderman Thompson and VMLY Y&R to create the 'new' VML, but here we are. Following the merger, there was no surprise when Pip Hulbert, chief executive of Wunderman Thompson UK, was announced as the UK CEO of the 'new' VML.

We caught up with Hulbert to explore the agency's 2023.

What three words would you use to describe 2023?

Growth. Fun. Limitless.

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

It’s been a year where we’ve invested in creating fully connected customer experiences for brilliant brands - integrated communications that bring brand propositions to life in ways that resonate with their customers and can be directly attributed to business growth.

We’ve introduced new clients to the fold, with big names such as The British Heart, Foundation, Innocent Drinks and Lenovo, and expanded our remit with clients from Samsung to Duracell, to Virgin Red (to name a few). We’ve also expanded our capabilities, by growing our social and influencer marketing offering across EMEA.

Most recently, I was thrilled to see three of our VML ads for Coca Cola, Boots and Duracell, named in the top 12 most effective Christmas adverts during the busiest launch week for Christmas ads. This was also the Bunny’s first foray into Christmas for the last five years, showcasing the strength of longevity in a brand mascot – he’s been around since 1973 and hasn’t aged a bit!

What one thing are you proudest of this year?

It’s always hard to pick just one thing, but at the heart of it, it would have to be our work. We’ve broken records for Duracell, partnering with them to become one of the first brands to explore gaming on TikTok. The ‘battery power’ game has brought Duracell new audiences, with more than 45m views, 1.5m plays, 1.5m likes, 66,000 shares and an incredible 130,000 user-generated videos; all of which put the game in the top on per cent of filters on the platform.

And what’s been your biggest challenge?

As I’m sure is the case for most of us in agency-land, balancing risk-averse client attitudes with creative bravery continues to be difficult. While it’s understandable that everyone is looking to drive efficiencies, I believe there’s a way to do this while still reaching consumers and creating integrated work that drives effectiveness and results - it all comes down to being able to reach consumers in the right way, across the right channels.

What are you most looking forward to in 2024?

With the merger to VML, a much shorter email address!


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

Well, I think we’d all like to see more clients leveraging more specialisms from their agency – there’s so much now on offer. On a lighter note, I’d like to see more ads that tap into humour and make me smile, I think that’s especially important when times are tougher.

Which industry leader have you admired most in 2024?  

Is it time we looked less at current leaders, and more at the leaders of the future? While there are some fantastic people leading the way, I’d call out those who aren’t in traditional leadership roles who are pushing the boundaries of creativity. We could all learn from them. .

Creative Salon on Wunderman Thompson's 2023

The year kicked off with Wunderman Thompson scooping Virgin Group’s rewards club, Virgin Red's international creative and CRM business, following a competitive pitch. This was followed by The British Heart Foundation also entrusting the agency with its CRM account in a competitive pitch. It also bagged home appliance giant Beko's business as its global brand strategy and creative agency.

Later in the year, agency CCO Steve Aldridge announced his departure (as did VMLY&R’s CCO Laurent Simon). Both departures were announced before the merger.

Meanwhile Wunderman Thompson UK raided adam &eve/DDB's to hire its new head of planning - Ben Worden. Ogilvy's creative director Chloe Grindle was appointed in the same role at the agency. Wunderman Thompson UK also hired Anna Jehan as its new head of product design, a new role in the Experience team.

Noteworthy work included a collaboration with The Eve Appeal - the agency employed a social film to reshape perceptions around cervical screening. Wunderman Thompson UK's work for First Direct showcased the bank's products and services. A campaign for HSBC UK highlighted the Global Money Account, featuring Richard Ayoade, in which the IT Crowd actor, director and writer dropped the "F bomb".

KitKat's iconic message, "Have a Break, Have a KitKat," was distilled to just two words in a unique digital out-of-home poster by Wunderman Thompson UK. The agency, in collaboration with NHS Blood & Transplant, introduced the "Waiting to Live" campaign, employing handmade dolls to raise awareness about the critical need for child organ donors.

Wunderman Thompson forged partnerships with The Worst Girl Gang Ever for baby loss support and The Latte Lounge for menopause awareness in the workplace. These initiatives, alongside the agency's evolved Life Policies, underscore Wunderman Thompson's commitment to employee well-being and inclusivity.

Creative Salon Says: Hulbert, who succeeded WPP CEO Mark Read as boss of Wunderman, has a gargantuan task on her hands as the holding company embarks on its biggest internal restructuring to date. Let's remind ourselves - Hulbert first joined Wunderman 11 years ago as the new business lead (rising to COO in 2015 and CEO in 2017) and is known for her sharp business skills and also as the ultimate suit that has a lot of fans among her clients. If anyone is up to the task, she is. Hulbert is unstoppable.

We cannot wait for her to set her masterplan into action next year.


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