Ogilvy and JWT uncouple in Malaysia as ‘one company two brands’ structure is scrapped

An ambitious plan to combine the operations of J Walter Thompson and Ogilvy in Malaysia under a “one company two brands” structure has collapsed. The agencies will now return to being individual operations, with a new management team in place at Ogilvy, headed by co-chief executives Nizwani Shahar and Campbell Cannon.

Campbell Cannon and Nizwani Shahar

Saurabh Saksena who headed the combined entity is now CEO of Wunderman Thompson Malaysia reporting to the agency’s Asia-Pacific CEO Annette Male.

Saurabh Saksena

The decision to split the agencies winds down a structure that reportedly took 12 months to put in place. And is believed, in part, to have contributed to the exit of Ogilvy veteran David Mayo, who was heading the Malaysia operation of the agency, at the time the combined entity was announced.

The reason for the change is said to be the formation of Wunderman Thompson, an agency that had not been conceived of, or at least not officially announced last July, when the ‘one company, two brands’ configuration was put in place.

A mail sent to the clients of the agencies, seen by Mumbrella, stated: “As you are aware, in mid-2018, Ogilvy and JWT established a joint operation in Malaysia under a ‘one company, two brands’ setup. This involved senior staff from both agencies jointly managing company operations.

“Late last year, JWT underwent a global transformation with the announcement of Wunderman Thompson – a new, global agency comprised of JWT and Wunderman.

“In light of these changes, Ogilvy and Wunderman Thompson Asia management have mutually agreed to return to independent operations in Malaysia, with each agency charting its own future course in-line with their respective global and regional plans. The return to solus operations will take effect from today (April 15).

“The management of both agencies envision no operational disruption for you and your business, as the two will continue to cooperate as necessary as WPP agencies.”

This marks the start of a new management team at Ogilvy Malaysia with agency veterans Nizwani Shahar and Campbell Cannon being promoted to co-chief executives. Kurt Novack has been brought on board as group executive creative director, moving from Paris, France where he was executive creative director at Leo Burnett.

Kurt Novack

The agency said: “Shahar and Campbell’s promotions represent important continuity for the office, and have been tasked with driving Ogilvy Malaysia’s next phase of growth and creative leadership. They will report to Kent Wertime, co-chief executive for Ogilvy in Asia.”

Speaking about their appointments, Wertime said: “Nizwani and Campbell have a combined tenure of more than 22 years with our business, and bring together passion and experience across local, regional, and global brands. They are fantastic Ogilvy ambassadors and have the full support of our network when it comes to their ability to lead our business.”

Mayo who left the agency in August 2018, shortly after combined structure was announced, recently joined creative marketplace GetCraft as chief growth officer.

In an interview at the time of his departure, he had told Mumbrella: “My belief is that clients don’t want agencies in their current format. They want deeper, faster access to data and the creators who can activate it. They want to be 100% ‘there’ and 80% perfect rather than the other way around.

“And they want people who can deploy common sense and bravery to make that happen. Less admin, more action. Less planning more delivery. Less process and more fun. I haven’t met a client in the past year who doesn’t feel the same way the agencies all do.”


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