Gatfield's installation as what one insider described as "de facto chairman" is designed to lend support to Wright. Wright, a former chief strategy and planning officer at Ogilvy & Mather New York, had run neither an agency nor a network before joining Lowe in 2004.
"It's an informal arrangement but I am stepping into the fray," Gatfield said.
Gatfield, IPG's executive vice-president of global communications and a one-time chief operating officer of Leo Burnett, is a close associate of IPG's boss, Michael Roth. He is not expected to do the Lowe job long-term, but would remain while the network reconfigures itself to become more competitive. Gatfield explained: "We have made no decision about whether it will be formalised."
Last year, the Lowe network lost international Unilever accounts, as well as the London agency's flagship Tesco business.
Gatfield's move puts a question-mark over the future of Ed Powers, the chief operating officer, appointed 17 months ago to provide Wright with operational support.
David Bell, then IPG's chief executive, brought in Powers, an ex-chief operating officer of the PR group Weber Shandwick, soon after Wright was hired.
A Lowe insider said: "To get the organisation back on the front foot you need client-facing managers. Powers is not a client handler but, to be fair to him, that was not why he was appointed."
Powers was unavailable for comment as Campaign went to press.