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AKQA

AKQA Founder Issues a Rallying Cry…We Think

It seems that AKQA founder/chairman Ajaz Ahmed has been quite vocal since his digital agency was acquired by WPP a month ago. Here’s what appears to be his latest memo to staffers, which for some reason makes us want to revisit Bill Pullman‘s speech from Independence Day.

“As entrepreneurs, we are excited about putting our spirit and energy into this adventure because we are and have always been in control of our own destiny. We believe in the virtuous circle: that when we do good and have good intentions, good things happen. We believe in it because we’ve seen it in action time and time again through the reaction to the work, the growth of key relationships or the loyalty and commitment of our team.

We will always have an independent mindset, which to us means caring for the work, caring for clients, caring for our business, caring for the future.

Everyday we have board-level conversations with many of the greatest organisations and people on the planet. We are creating genre-defining work that is inspiring audiences worldwide. We are contributing thinking and ideas that our clients love, and our competitors love to copy. We are in a far better position to realise our potential than any of our competitors.

As a team, we are committed to being agile, strong, disciplined and responsive.

We have a set of standards, core values that are exacting and demanding. We have a guiding philosophy, the DNA of our company. We will preserve these timeless core values while at the same time stimulating innovation, creativity and progress across everything we do.

This is the underlying tension that drives our business.

Today our goal is to create one of the world’s great innovation companies that will endure for decades and I’m more excited than ever about it.

Cheers, Ajaz”

All that’s missing here is a Hans Zimmer or James Newton Howard score. Anyhow, the tipster who sent this to us says, “Can the AgencySpy community please help the employees of AKQA understand what our CEO is telling us? These words by themselves sound good but the meaning in the message is lost.” While we check with our AKQA contacts on the memo itself, feel free to weigh in.

Nissan, AKQA Launch ‘World’s Cheapest Taxi Stand’ (It Tweets, Too!)

An electric Nissan LEAF is six times more efficient than a gas-fueled car, meaning it’s six times cheaper. When you drive a LEAF, it not only adds to your woodland fairy street cred, but the act saves money. Most people don’t realize that, which is why AKQA created a social campaign to inform Londoners about the benefits of Nissan’s electric innovation.

People tweeted their destination to Nissan, then met a Nissan LEAF at a special taxi station near London’s Liverpool station. The journeys often cost less than 10p, or roughly 15 cents. Now that the number is in American money, it’s even clearer how ludicrously cheap that is.

“Every passenger got out of the Nissan LEAF taxi with a smile on their face,” says Nissan GB managing director Jim Wright in a statement, adding, “They loved the near silence and general refinement of the car… and were blown away when they discovered how cheap it is to fuel. Using off-peak electricity – such as when recharging overnight – means it really costs just a few pence in fuel to go anywhere by Nissan LEAF.”

In addition to increasing awareness, the London stunt, which has now expanded to Amsterdam, also helps Nissan gather consumer insight, informing them in their research on the “taxi of the future.” Nissan is also the new exclusive supplier of New York City yellow cabs, in case you didn’t know. We trust they got some good intel across the pond and that they’ll be bringing only the highest quality, affordable vehicles to our grand island. Instead of catching cabs, let’s catch LEAFs. Traffic jams can become LEAF piles. I’m excited already.

Credits and images from the stunt after the jump.

Read more

We Hear: Rossman Out as AKQA President and COO (Updated)

We’ve been hearing from tipsters and just received confirmation that Jim Rossman is out as president and COO of AKQA. This news comes alongside a slew of promotions at AKQA in the wake of holding company WPP announcing they were acquiring the agency.

Currently, we have no word on whether Rossman resigned or was let go, .but a source tells us it sounds like the latter (We’re hearing it was not the latter. See update below). AKQA hired Rossman away from Digitas in March 2009, where he was also COO. We’ve reached out to AKQA for an official statement, and we’ll keep you updated as we receive more details.

Update: We’ve received confirmation from AKQA that Rossman is indeed no longer with the agency.

Update 2: We’ve also been told by sources familiar with the matter that from the beginning, it was agreed that he was brought in to handle operations and upon a change in investors, he was to exit.

AKQA On a Promotion Spree?

Over the last hour, a couple of tipsters have sent us what appears to be a brief memo sent from AKQA founder Ajaz Ahmed to staff regarding a slew of new promotions across the board from San Francisco to Amsterdam. We’re checking with the newly christened WPP agency to get some verification on the matter, but you can see the note verbatim for yourself below of what the new leadership looks like at the digital network.

“Team,

In recognition of their contribution to our clients and company, I’m delighted to announce a number of promotions that are effective immediately.

Please join me in congratulating the team:

- Guy Wieynk promoted to Vice President, International
- Stuart Sproule promoted to Managing Director, International Operations & Talent
- Simon Jefferson promoted to Managing Director, San Francisco
- Erik Rogstad promoted to Managing Director, Washington DC
- Scott Symonds promoted to Managing Director, Media
- Matthew Bain promoted to Managing Director, Amsterdam

These promotions give us more agility, organisation and focus as we work together to unlock the tremendous opportunities ahead.

With thanks and best wishes,
Ajaz.”

Let’s give you a little background on a few of these folks if you need. Wieynk has served as AKQA European MD and was tasked with leading the newly opened Paris office at the beginning of the year. Symonds has been with AKQA for five years, joining from Agency.com and Sproule has had an 11-year run at AKQA, most recently serving as MD for the San Francisco and Shanghai offices.

 

WPP Set to Acquire AKQA

 

Despite his shareholder woes, we guess you can chalk up another win for Sir Martin Sorrell as his holding company WPP has agreed to acquire AKQA. The digital network will still operate as a standalone unit within the fold and continue to be led by founder/CEO Ajaz Ahmed and chairman Tom Bedecarré. As a result of the move, the latter will also become president of a new Silicon Valley-based outfit called WPP Ventures, which will explore new digital opportunities for WPP.

Says Sorrell in a statement, “We are thrilled to welcome AKQA’s unique team of technological innovators and entrepreneurs to WPP.  We have admired their creativity and technological skills for a long time along with their outstandingly effective and award-winning work for clients. We are looking forward to working with Ajaz and Tom to broaden their offer and our own, both geographically and functionally.  We are delighted to be united!”

Hyperbole aside, here’s a quick stat: AKQA currently has eight global offices and houses 1,160 staffers ranging from creatives and strategists to engineers and technologists. In addition, the Guardian reports that the WPP acquisition of AKQA is the “most significant deal” in the digital ad market since Publicis Groupe bought Razorfish three years ago.

AKQA Welcomes New Creative Lead on Verizon Biz

Nearly three months after taking over as lead digital partner for Verizon Wireless, AKQA has finally found a creative lead for the business in Sung Chang, formerly a senior partner/ECD at Ogilvy. Chang spent eight years in all at O&M, most recently leading creative on Motorola and Nestle while serving as global ECD on Castrol EDGE.

In a statement, Chang’s new boss, AKQA CCO Rei Inamoto, says, “Sung was our first choice to lead the multi-disciplinary creative team for Verizon Wireless. With his great reputation as a creative leader, experience in telecommunications and his strong passion for technology, Sung is a natural fit for this new role, bringing a mobile-first mentality to the masses.”

During his career, Chang served as creative director at Red Sky Interactive and co-founded his own small shop called contempt. Now at AKQA, Chang will lead creative on Verizon Wireless out of the agency’s New York office.

 

AKQA Adds New CD in SF

After a one-year stint at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, Sergio Mugnaini is moving on to a fellow Bay Area branch, namely AKQA, where he will assume a creative director post. Mugnaini’s primary focus will be on AKQA SF’s Audi of America account. The creative is no stranger to the automaker’s biz as he worked on efforts such as “Robots” for the automaker while at AlmapBBDO, where he spent the majority of his career (seven years, give or take). During his career, Mugnaini has also worked at the likes of Ogilvy and JWT.

We Hear: Linzer Out at AKQA (Updated)

Over the last few hours, we’ve received several tips that AKQA’s director of search marketing Scott Linzer, who is based out of the digital agency’s San Francisco office, is no longer there. Linzer has been with AKQA for over four years and has worked overseen the global search practice across the agency’s client portfolio including Clorox, Coca-Cola, Ticketmaster, HSBC, and PetSmart. Spies are telling us that Linzer’s departure could be due to AKQA losing a portion of the Coca-Cola biz–specifically paid search/SEM in January. which wound up at iCrossing.

Prior to AKQA, Linzer worked in a similar role at McCann for a year on the Microsoft business and had a two-plus year stint at, you guessed it iCrossing. Calls to Linzer are being met with voicemail, but we’ll verify and let you know.

Update: AKQA has confirmed that Linzer is leaving at month’s end as part of agency “restructuring.” AKQA adds that it’s ramping up staff in San Francisco.

Update 2: Here’s another note from AKQA that clarifies Linzer’s departure:

“Scott Linzer has left AKQA after a number of years of employment. To clarify initial speculation, Scott’s departure is in no way related to our relationship with Coca-Cola.  He has been a valued member of our team, helping to grow AKQA’s Media, Search & Analytics practice more than 50% year-over-year. We appreciate all his contributions and wish him luck as he enters the next phase of his career.”

AKQA to Take Over as Verizon Digital Partner

 

Sources familiar with the matter confirm that AKQA will succeed R/GA in as lead digital partner for Verizon Wireless. We’ve been told that the parties have been notified as of this afternoon. R/GA and Moxie Interactive also participated in the review that began at the end of January for the “nation’s largest wireless carrier.” Due to the transition of such a massive account, we’ve been told it will be a few months until AKQA actually takes over on the Verizon digital biz, which will include mobile, e-commerce and in-store once the ink is dried. When pressed, AKQA would not offer comment on the matter.

AKQA Indeed Sets Up Shop in Paris

Well, it certainly didn’t take long for AKQA to build a presence in the City of Light, as the agency has announced that it’s now officially opened its doors in Paris with Nike France as its founding client. The new office, which will be based in central Paris’s Latin Quarter and is the eighth in the AKQA network if you’re keeping score, will be led by European managing director Guy Wieynk, creative director Peter Lund and ACDs Nicolai Smith and Julien Veillon. The staff count currently stands at 10, though AKQA hopes to add another 40 in Paris by year’s end.

 

 

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