New Wunderman Thompson CCO wants to bring French lessons to NYC office
Rosie Bardales emphasizes cooperation over competition as she sets out a plan to make the agency’s New York business the strongest in the network.
Rosie Bardales is Wunderman Thompson NY’s latest chief creative officer / Wunderman Thompson
Talent, not tech, is still the key to agency success, according to Wunderman Thompson’s newly appointed chief creative in New York.
Industry veteran Rosie Bardales has been brought in to run the network’s NYC office after an eight-year stint at French agency BETC.
Speaking from Paris (the executive is planning to move back to the US after almost two decades abroad), she says the primary objective is to build the agency’s New York office into a hero unit for the network.
“There’s a desire for the New York office to be one of the best and one of the strongest in the network,” she says. “That really appealed to me because I was looking for my own personal growth and evolution in leadership and that was a very interesting, exciting challenge.”
That doesn’t mean it has to consider network stablemates rivals. Instead, she says the focus will be on copying and pasting the strategies that work elsewhere into Manhattan. She wants the team to “learn from the other offices; really listen to each other, learn from each other’s experiences, build a better network and a larger pool of teammates.”
WPP’s creative agency networks have seen growth slow down in recent months. Net revenue growth in the first quarter of 2023 was just 0.7% and Wunderman Thompson has been particularly hit by lower tech spending. Bardales says that the New York agency can contribute to the growth of the network by contributing more to the overall effort.
“The better we integrate, the better we can deliver on a global scale for our clients.”
It’s not the first recent change in leadership at Wunderman Thompson’s North American business. R/GA’s Ellie Bamford left the ailing IPG shop to take on the network’s global chief strategist role, while Area 23’s Renata Maia was poached to take on the global chief operating officer’s role for its healthcare division. In March, it appointed ex-McCann China boss Emily Chang as chief of its west coast operations, and this week Vaishali Sarkar, head of Wunderman Thompson and VMLY&R Indonesia, was named president of its Canadian business.
“As far as the job and the new role goes, we’re going to hit the ground running and take advantage of the momentum there at the moment. But I had so many great years in New York previously – it’s where I really kicked off my career. So I’m expecting to fall back into meeting up with old friends and colleagues. That’s what I’m most looking forward to.”
Bardales’s 17 years in the UK and France taught her an “open way of working” that can support a more integrated approach. “It’s the way I worked at Cliff Freeman and Partners, and I found it even more when I joined Mother. There were people from absolutely everywhere and we were all in it together. It’s competitive, but it helps to inspire more innovative thinking and more inspirational work.”
Despite suggestions at rival agencies (such as Media.Monks, whose co-founder Wesley ter Haar discussed the topic on a recent earnings call) that the emergence of AI could snip the link between agency growth and headcount, Bardales asserts that recruitment, retention and internal promotion will be her immediate priorities.
“It’s always difficult to find the right talent. That’s why it’s really important to assess the team and what’s needed to make the existing team stronger.
“There’s definitely a place for AI, when it comes to innovation and how you integrate the use of it. But I’m a very big believer in people: in people that have the talent and tact and gut feeling to come up with something that is new and inspiring. People inspire people.”
“I still think you need the talent that you need for certain clients. What’s most important is that we can deliver to the client’s expectations.”