WPP digital agency Switched On to merge into AKQA

Josh McDonnell
By Josh McDonnell | 8 July 2019
Chris Hitchcock and Brian Vella

WPP AUNZ's Sydney-based digital marketing and media consultancy, Switched On, will join the Australian arm of global experience design agency AKQA.

The holding group stated the decision to merge the two is in direct response to client interest and demand for digital solutions across all brand interactions, from acquisition through to retention.

The new joint entity will have an emphasis will be on brand storytelling throughout the entire customer journey, delivering clients’ long-term brand purpose while maintaining a focus on short term performance.

“This is two teams with momentum becoming one, and a bold move by them both. It’s driven by a burning desire to provide pioneering solutions from two highly experienced senior local teams," John Steedman, WPP AUNZ interim CEO 

“Joining Switched On and AKQA formalises the close working relationship both agencies already have. The partnership uniquely combines media, tech, data and design literally under one roof. The result is a stronger client offering and WPP AUNZ is proud to support them,” Steedman concluded.

Switched On will continue to be led by managing director, Chris Hitchcock. He will be responsible for the continued success of the Switched On team and its integration into AKQA. 

Hitchcock will join the AKQA executive team, reporting into Brian Vella, managing partner of AKQA in Asia Pacific. Both agency brands will continue, with Switched On transitioning to become AKQA in the future.

“As the worlds of marketing, technology, and customer experience converge, it’s clear a strategic reprioritisation of brand building is essential," Hitchcock says.

"We feel what’s needed is a unified proposition that straddles the need to balance this long-term vision with the reality of short-term performance in today’s digital age. That’s why we’ve come together."

AKQA operates in 28 markets globally, with over 2100 people worldwide. In APAC the studios whom collaborate closely include Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland, Tokyo and Shanghai. It most recently was awarded two Grand Prix Lions at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity.

By fusing their respective MarTech and AdTech capabilities, the "driving principle" of the new agency will be to deliver on the large technology platforms and transparent media investments. 

“This initiative is a terrific example of our team’s growth mindset and a shared vision of the future. Both agencies are at the top of their game. It’s a powerful combination that offers a modern, post-broadcast perspective to the interface of customer and brand,” Vella says.

“AKQA Media is widely regarded as one of the world’s premier media and technology agencies, something we believe will resonate well with Australian marketers."

The combined entity, with more than 300 team members, will offer digital consulting, performance media, creative strategy, CX and transformation strategy, experience design, CRM, social and influencer marketing and more.

The two are the latest agencies to merge within WPP, as the holding group looks to drive further integration across the business.

Over the last 12 months, creative agencies VML and Y&R have merged to become VMLY&R, while J Walter Thompson and digital agency Wunderman combined to create Wunderman Thompson.

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