Wunderman Thompson has tapped longtime McCann creative leader Tom Murphy to be its new North America creative chief. Murphy moves from his role as North America co-chief creative officer at McCann, where he helped to lead celebrated campaigns such as “Fearless Girl” for State Street Global Advisors, Mastercard’s “True Name” and Microsoft’s “Changing the Game.” In his new post, he will be charged with leveraging his expertise to bolster the WPP agency’s offerings in creativity, data and tech across the region.
Wunderman Thompson hires McCann vet as North America chief creative officer
Murphy will begin at Wunderman Thompson in October and will report to CEO Audrey Melofchik. WT Global Chief Creative Officer Bas Korsten had been acting N.A. CCO for the better part of 2022, after Taras Wayner, former N.A. creative chief, moved to a president role at WPP’s GroupM Global in January.
In 2018, WPP merged JWT and Wunderman into Wunderman Thompson to create a “creative, data and technology agency build to inspire growth for its clients,” CEO Mark Read noted at the time.
At Wunderman Thompson, Murphy said he’s excited about the agency's diverse capabilities on offer, from consumer experience to inclusive design. “If we point all those tools against creativity, we can create ideas that other agencies would kill for," Murphy said. "Given all those capabilities and where the industry is going, it feels like the perfect time to turbocharge Wunderman Thompson creatively in North America and take it to the next level.”
“We’re on a journey to make sure we get the Wunderman and the Thompson calibration exactly right,” Melofchik said. She added that the agency aims to weave together data, technology and creativity “in a way that will show the industry a completely different model where clients will hire us for one thing, and then never think about needing something else. That is only possible if you have someone like Tom who can think about creativity in the widest possible way.”
Wunderman Thompson is quietly becoming known for ideas that artfully and usefully integrate technology and creativity, such as the Sherwin-Williams “Speaking in Color” campaign that earned the inaugural B2B Grand Prix at Cannes this year. Murphy also pointed to the 2020 Red Cross “Liferun” project from the agency’s Seattle office that allowed gamers in “Fortnite” to become International Red Cross workers. The agency continues to explore new technologies and earlier this year opened up its own space in b-to-b Metaverse platform Odyssey.
At McCann, Murphy oversaw work and creative teams across clients such as Verizon, Mastercard, Microsoft, Ulta Beauty, Mucinex, MGM Resorts, Lysol, NY Lottery, USPS, Homegoods and more. Along with “Fearless Girl,” “True Name” and “Changing the Game,” other highlights include “Generation Lockdown” for March for our Lives, which earned the Cannes Lions 2019 Grand Prix for Good, and the multi-Lion-winning “Universal Love” for MGM Resorts, which re-imagined classic love songs for the LGBTQ+ community.
Murphy said his years at McCann have helped him to shape a leadership style that he hopes to bring to his new job. “One of the things I’ve always believed and that I think we’ve done well at McCann is that we look for the positive, the great ideas and the creativity within everyone and make it very clear that that’s our mission,” he said. “When you champion creativity, and when you really look for the talent and creativity in your people, it can be a super powerful thing.”
"Tom has been a beloved creative leader for us in New York and North America over the past 17 years and we wish him much personal success," said Chris Macdonald, Chairman & CEO, McCann, in a statement. "We are fortunate to have an incredibly deep bench of senior creative leaders across our agencies in NA and we know they will continue to deliver the most meaningful, effective work for our clients."
Murphy’s arrival at Wunderman Thompson will see him returning to where it all began. He started his career 27 years ago as a junior art director at JWT, where he met his longtime partner, McCann N.A. Co-Chief Creative Officer Sean Bryan. The pair eventually moved to DDB Chicago before landing at McCann as a group creative directors in 2004. Since then, they steadily moved up the ranks and were named New York co-chief creative officers in 2012, ultimately rising to the North American posts in 2020. Bryan remains at McCann as sole North America CCO.
Murphy’s move marks the end of one of the industry’s longest-standing creative duos. He and Bryan worked for more than two decades together across multiple agencies and even on outside projects such as a series of children’s books.
“We’ve grown together, made amazing work together, laughed together—and through it all always trusted each other,” said Murphy. “It’s strange to think about not having Sean as a sounding board. It was one of the really tough parts of my decision to seize this new opportunity.”
“27 years ago, in the summer of 1995, I got assigned a new art director to be my partner,” said Bryan. “He was a year out of college and looked sort of like the singer Beck. We got along well and just started working on any briefs we could get our hands on. After three agencies, four children’s books, and more clients, campaigns and awards than I can count, we are sadly going our separate ways. I am amazed at what we accomplished together over that run, and I have no doubt that Tom will do awesome work in his next role.”