VMLY&R London has appointed BBC Creative’s Laurent Simon as its new chief creative officer.
He will report to chief executive Justin Pahl and work closely with Jaime Mandelbaum, VMLY&R’s EMEA chief creative officer.
Simon is tasked with putting VMLY&R "on the map" in the UK. WPP merged digital marketing agency VML with creative network Y&R last year, with the latter struggling in the UK for years with account losses and a revolving door of chief executives.
Pahl said: "I've known Laurent for years and he is, if not the best, one of the very best in London and possibly the world. He’s bright, engaging, consistently pushing boundaries and also happens to be a thoroughly lovely chap. So I am beyond excited to have him join us on this brilliant endeavour."
France-born Simon will lead the agency’s 35-strong creative department, whose clients include Center Parcs, Danone, the Department for Transport and TUI.
His start date has not yet been finalised. VMLY&R had been hunting a top-flight UK creative for several months after the departure of Harsh Kapadia, who moved back to his previous home of New York for family reasons in April.
Simon was executive creative director at BBC Creative. He had taken a central leadership role last year after the departure of his longtime creative partner, Aidan McClure, who defected to David Abraham’s start-up Wonderhood Studios.
The pair joined BBC Creative as joint executive creative directors in 2016 and helped to establish the in-house agency as a creative force, winning a Cannes gold Lion in 2017 for BBC One’s Christmas marketing campaign.
Simon and McClure were previously at Adam & Eve/DDB, where they created John Lewis’ Cannes Lion Grand Prix-winning Christmas ad in 2013, "The bear and the hare", and at Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, from where Pahl joined VMLY&R last year, as well as Bartle Bogle Hegarty and Mother.
VMLY&R London is relocating to its new office on Percy Street this week, 20 years after Y&R bought Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe in 1999 to create RKCR/Y&R, based at Greater London House in Camden. Publicis Groupe's Zenith previously occupied the Percy Street office.
Simon said: "I leave the BBC with the satisfaction of having built one of the best creative floors in London and ready for my next challenge.
"The creation of VMLY&R was a bold move. It shaped something fresh and innovative, and the opportunity to leverage the full power of ideas and experiences to create connected brands, which is truly exciting. I also love the team's positive energy and creative drive. I couldn't think of better people to embark on this new adventure with. We can create something very special and unique for our people and our clients."