Guy Wieynk: Why I chose to leave AKQA for Publicis Worldwide

Publicis Worldwide’s new CEO for the UK and the Nordics, Guy Wieynk speaks to The Drum about why he chose to leave WPP digital agency AKQA after almost 16 years, where he ultimately held the role of vice president international, explaining that his career at the agency had ‘hit a ceiling.’

He explained to The Drum: “there was nowhere to go,” at AKQA, with its co-founder and CEO Ajaz Ahmed very much at the helm of the business for the long term, although he admits to it being a company he "loved" working for.

“The dream job for me would be to run AKQA but that was never going to happen which is fine, I got that. I had a long chat with Ajaz and resigned in January and said, ‘no hard feelings but I need something else’. I did a lot of work with Sir Martin [Sorrell] and the WPP guys and they offered me loads of different jobs, but the thing I liked about this one was that Arthur was amazing and I wanted to run a creative business. I have lots of different businesses that I need to mold and that is the exciting thing - how do I get four different businesses, each with their own strength, and take them to the next level?”

He admitted to being “really excited” by the new challenge ahead, but acknowledged that it won’t always be so positive. “I’m not naive; there will be good days and bad days. I’ve got lots of different types of businesses and I think I’m going to learn a huge amount. I’m very respectful of the fact that Publicis has taken a non-advertising guy and put him in charge of a primarily advertising business, even though 40 per cent of its revenue is now digital. The largest unit is still the advertising.”

Asked whether he believed that more traditional advertising agencies should look towards 'digitally minded’ bosses for the future, he agreed. “If you look at how many are actually doing it - hardly any. Everyone says that it’s a no-brainer to do social media or to embrace digital skills, yet how many traditional agencies still struggle to do it well - around 60 per cent of them I would say. Strategically this makes sense and it’s why I am determined to deliver. I have never not delivered.”

Finally, he admitted to having no concerns about any changes to the role or agencies taking place with the impending Publicis Omnicom merger still on the cards before he begins.

“There are a lot of things I cannot control but I am used to living with uncertainty. With AKQA, how many times did someone say ‘these guys are going to buy you?’ At the end of the day, the chips are going to fall down however they fall down and realistically I don’t see that there will be any change. Maurice took me aside and have me every confidence that everything would be fine. So I am just going to get on with the job in hand.”

Wieynk will take up his new role in January.

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