VMLY&R picks Karen Boswell to lead new EMEA experience team

WPP shop has hired former Adam & Eve/DDB innovation head.

Boswell: starts at VMLY&R next month
Boswell: starts at VMLY&R next month

VMLY&R has hired Adam & Eve/DDB’s former head of innovation Karen Boswell in a new role to lead the WPP agency’s experience practice in EMEA.

Boswell, who starts on 7 May, will be tasked with driving the creation of "world-class solutions" across products and services, experience platforms and business optimisation efforts. She will also work closely with VMLY&R's global customer experience practice.

As EMEA chief experience officer, she will take charge of the shape of VMLY&R’s customer experience model, which uses technology to improve brand marketing and business strategy. Part of this, the agency says, includes creating and establishing "modern thinking to transform the complete connected consumer experience".

The London-based centre of excellence includes almost 20 people comprising strategists, creative and user experience designers, technologists and solutions delivery experts. Boswell will work closely with the region’s local customer experience practitioners, accounting for a further 30 people.

Boswell's appointment follows VMLY&R’s creation of three "centres of excellence" in EMEA. The agency has been reorganising since the merger of VML and Y&R last year and is led globally by chief executive Jon Cook. 

The UK is one of the centres and will be responsible for customer experience, alongside Poland (technology) and Turkey (content). 

Boswell will report to Jeff Geheb, global chief experience officer, and work closely with EMEA chief executive Andrew Dimitriou and London chief executive Justin Pahl, who is joining from Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO later this year.

Before joining Adam & Eve/DDB in 2015, Boswell spent three years at AKQA, where she was a global client lead and creative strategist. She is also founder of tech start-up THEI.A Cognition, which is building a "neural network" that powers personalisation within immersive environments.

Boswell was named one of the IPA’s Women of Tomorrow in 2016 and one of Google’s Top 10 Female Creatives to Watch in 2017 and 2018. 

'It feels like the next chapter of digital'

Boswell prides herself as a leader who "gets in the trenches" with her team and looks for "originality, bravery and honesty" in colleagues. Her initial task in the first two months will be to establish the core experience team and then focus on delivering a service into market with clients.

She told Campaign: "It’s a complicated market and we have a lot of diversity, there are different markets with different challenges… We want to achieve a bar of excellence as standard, which will take time and patience."

Boswell sees the chief experience officer position as the "outward-facing" version of the lead innovation role that she held previously. "It feels like the next chapter of digital, underpinned by design thinking, insight, data and analytics," she explained.

The EMEA centre of excellence for customer experience focuses on driving value from each interaction between a brand and a consumer. It is meant to bring human-centred design, creativity and technology together to create a "connected consumer experience" to ensure client growth.