Lowe Worldwide Chairman Wright Takes on Broader IPG Role

Focusing on Unilever, Exec Will Help Holding Company's Shops Work Together

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Tony Wright
Tony Wright

Lowe & Partners Chairman Tony Wright will move to a new role at parent company Interpublic Group in January that will bring together different disciplines but with a focus on Unilever, one of IPG's biggest international clients.

"Tony will take on responsibilities at the holding company, reporting to me, focusing on our overall Unilever relationship and macro opportunities for growth with this important partner as they look for brilliant integrated solutions," said Michael Roth, IPG's chairman-CEO, in a statement to the company's staff. "Additionally, we will be asking Tony to work with us to identify ways in which we can bring his talents as one of the world's top marketing strategists to bear across Interpublic on opportunities that help drive our growth objectives."

Lowe & Partners Global CEO Michael Wall will expand his role to fill the gaps left by Mr. Wright, with the support of Naomi Troni, who was appointed to the new role of global chief growth officer in April.

Jacki Kelly, the former IPG Mediabrands CEO for North America and president of global clients, was offered a similar role in May, but with a focus on the Microsoft business she helped win earlier this year. She instead moved to Bloomberg Media, where she is now chief operating officer.

Mr. Wright, a Brit, will continue to be based in Madrid, but expects to spend a great deal of time in New York. He described the new role as "not bigger necessarily, but different" and has yet to settle on a title. He said, "I don't want to be executive head of strategic growth opportunities. The main thing is that I'm clear what I'm doing. Usually you have a title but you don't know what you're doing."

Mr. Wright led Interpublic's successful Cadillac pitch last year. In his new role, he hopes to replicate some of the strategies that won the business -- and perhaps to avoid some of the subsequent problems the group has faced in handling the account, which was recently moved to Lowe & Partners after Rogue, the shop IPG created solely for Cadillac, was disbanded.

"It was essentially a holding-company pitch against Publicis and Omnicom," Mr. Wright said. "I really enjoyed doing it, partly because it was a strategy role and partly because I got really good people working together, which made me interested in how we could do that most of the time and not just some of the time. You need a strategy and an idea at the center, not just a construct; when we put an idea at the middle, suddenly everyone brought resources and it worked. We have a lot of very good pieces – R/GA, Golin Harris, Weber Shandwick, McCann, Lowe – that we could put together more effectively."

Mr. Wright joined Lowe in 2004, when the agency was still struggling to unite after the global merger with another IPG network, Ammirati Puris Lintas. "It was a gigantic turnaround operation," Mr. Wright said. "I don't believe I can say 'job done' because it doesn't work like that in advertising, but I can say that Lowe is in good shape now."

The 2013 creation of Lowe Campbell Ewald, and January's acquisition of Profero (now Lowe Profero) were "the final pieces in the jigsaw," according to Mr. Wright. The Profero deal, he added, would allow "a radical change of output from Lowe itself. We've not achieved it yet, but that's the opportunity. With the U.S. reinvigorated and digital in place, the sky's the limit for Lowe."

Mr. Wall joined in 2009. Mr. Wright said, "It's not like I have to bring him on. This couldn't be a gentler or easier transition, although I don't want to sound complacent, because there's still a lot more to do at Lowe."

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