Their move follows an offer from Dave Droga, who resigned as the Charlotte Street creative chief at the end of last year to become the Publicis worldwide creative director.
Willmott, a copywriter, and Marshall, his art director, were responsible for "cartoon" the NSPCC commercial featuring an animated child being abused by his father. The film won top honours at this year's British Television Advertising Awards, as well as picking up a gold at Cannes.
In New York, the pair will take charge of 30 teams working on a range of accounts including Heineken and BMW.
Willmott said: "Dave is one of the reasons we've decided to go. Without someone like him in New York we wouldn't have been so confident about doing it."
The pair has worked together since meeting on the West Herts college advertising course in 1990. They came to Saatchis when it acquired Laing Henry in 1995 and became creative group heads in 1998. They left Saatchis for Leo Burnett at the end of 2000, only to return barely four months later.
"Dave knew our ambition was to be creative directors and to test ourselves in the US," Willmott added.