Agency model critic Ewen Sturgeon returns to ad industry at Wunderman Thompson

Sturgeon tasked with overseeing strategic growth of agency in Europe and South Africa.

Sturgeon: previously led operations at Publicis Sapient
Sturgeon: previously led operations at Publicis Sapient

Ewen Sturgeon, the Publicis Sapient executive who left last year citing concerns about the agency/client model, has joined Wunderman Thompson in an international role. 

Next week, Sturgeon will start in his newly created position as chief executive of Europe and South Africa, reporting to global chief executive Mel Edwards. 

Sturgeon is tasked with overseeing the strategic growth of the business in those regions. WPP has merged Wunderman and J Walter Thompson amid a series of changes under chief executive Mark Read, the former Wunderman chief executive who replaced Sir Martin Sorrell last year.

Having quit as chief operating officer of Publicis Sapient International last year to pursue opportunities "ideally outside the marketing industry", Sturgeon said at the time that marketing services agencies "were not built" to operate inside clients’ businesses and supporting them to evolve on all fronts. 

However, Sturgeon told Campaign that Wunderman Thompson was different, because Read and Edwards had built the elements needed to become the "agency of the future".

He explained: "In order to be relevant and useful to the client, you need an integrationist approach. That means trying not to silo your capabilities and trying to create an operating culture inside the agency that is inherently collaborative and stitch together all the skills you need. That approach to building your business is going to be critical." 

Sturgeon joins a regional leadership team that includes Annette Male as Asia-Pacific chief executive and Shane Atchison as North America chief executive.

He left Publicis Sapient last year after a year as chief operating officer, a role in which he was tasked with "stitching together parts of DigitasLBi with Sapient Razorfish and Sapient Consulting" in EMEA and Asia-Pacific.

Before that, Sturgeon had a four-year stint as international chief executive of DigitasLBi, where he helped integrate LBi with Digitas following the former’s acquisition by Publicis Groupe. He joined LBi when the company bought his agency Wheel in 2005.

Edwards said: "I’ve been a massive admirer of Ewen’s for some time now. He is a well-respected entrepreneur and innovative leader with a brilliant history of leveraging breakthrough creativity, data and emerging technology to inspire growth for clients and partners.

"His experience of bringing together pioneering businesses to create something new and unique is why he is perfect to lead our European region."

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