WhiteGREY & AKQA Merge In Australia, Lee Simpson Departs

WhiteGREY & AKQA Merge In Australia, Lee Simpson Departs

WhiteGREY and AKQA have merged as part of an effort to optimise and create efficiencies.

Globally, Grey Group, of which WhiteGREY is the Australian arm, is strategically realigning offices, effective immediately, to accelerate growth and diversify its capabilities, while simultaneously deepening AKQA’s global presence and services. In Australia, WhiteGREY is merging with AKQA.

Lee Simpson, CEO of WhiteGREY in Australia, has departed, effective immediately. WhiteGREY will be absorbed into AKQA in Australia and the combined teams will be led by Brian Vella, AKQA Asia Pacific’s managing director. Simpson, however, will continue to work alongside Vella for the next couple of months to ensure a seamless transition, supporting the new AKQA Australia team and its clients.

AKQA will assume management of Grey’s studios around the world, with Grey’s senior management becoming part of the local leadership teams. AKQA said that “the complementary strengths and expertise of these companies, combined with AKQA’s existing offices, have minimal role duplication and will build on the exceptional work created for clients such as Volvo, Westfield, The Coca-Cola Company and additional industry leaders.”

Grey Group said the “realignment” was “another intentional step architected by Laura Maness, Grey Global CEO,” in her efforts to create “one borderless Grey.”

The move apparently will allow Grey to focus on its strongest performing studios in high-growth markets, yielding even better service for their burgeoning roster of global clients.

It follows a similar move from in October when fellow WPP-owned agencies VMLY&R and Wunderman Thompson merged to create VML.

In total, five studios will be transitioning between the brands. The realignment includes four Grey studios across Australia, UAE, Italy and Belgium.

As part of the change, the whiteGREY brand will no longer exist and will become part of AKQA Australia and New Zealand studio.

Simpson said that he was proud of the significant achievements the agency has achieved since he was appointed CEO in 2017.

“I joined whiteGREY at a challenging time when Grey and The White Agency merged and embarked on an ambitious journey of expansion and growth to its services, capabilities and clients. We created a new positioning and model, welcomed some fantastic clients, have been recognised as a top ten agency in the region for creativity and effectiveness (Cannes and WARC respectively) and are currently AFR’s Most Innovative Media & Marketing Company and the Most Innovative Small business in ANZ. We proved Tension really can create extraordinary.”

Rose Herceg, country president, Australia and New Zealand, WPP said of Simpson: “Lee is one of the best leaders I’ve ever known. Smart, gutsy and a leader whom we all respect. Lee has set the foundation for the next exciting period in AKQA Australia and New Zealand’s evolution. Lee can be incredibly proud of the contribution he has made. I have enjoyed every minute of working with Lee. It’s been a personal highlight for me”.

“AKQA and Grey have already been working together in these regions, and our areas of expertise complement each other perfectly,” said Maness.

“By bringing our teams together, we’re combining the best of both worlds—Grey’s renowned creativity and AKQA’s world-class design and innovation. I’m confident that this move will benefit not only our employees but also our clients, who will have access to a truly unparalleled pool of diverse talent and expertise.”

Ajaz Ahmed, AKQA’s founder and CEO, said “We are proud to partner with Laura’s team and believe the Grey brand has lasting value. Driving operational excellence is core to our mission of delivering sustainable growth and in service of building a leaner, more agile agency to improve our performance and better enable our long-term vision.”

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