Atifa Hargrave-Silk
Mar 30, 2010

Matthew Godfrey to lead Young & Rubicam Asia, as Ambar Brahmachary vacates regional role

ASIA-PACIFIC - Young & Rubicam has named Matthew Godfrey to lead its network in Asia following the abrupt departure of Ambar Brahmachary, who leaves the agency after three years in the role.

Matthew Godfrey Young & Rubicam Y&R
Matthew Godfrey Young & Rubicam Y&R
Godfrey, who was most recently the CEO and COO of Publicis Asia, will be based at the network’s regional headquarters in Singapore.

According to Hamish McLennan, Y&R’s global chairman and CEO, Brahmachary is currently exploring his options within WPP, although sources say he has been offered a role at one of the holding company’s research businesses.

“Ambar had done three years with us, and we both agreed that we would move to this transition. He decided it was time for him to do different things with his life. He has a couple of things within  WPP that he’s thinking about,” McLennan told Media.

Brahmachary’s sudden departure comes after an uninspiring performance for the network’s Asia operation in 2009, with Godfrey facing a mixed offering when he takes up his new role in May. The agency lost its grip on one of its biggest accounts, the global Singapore Tourism Board business, and underwent considerable upheaval amid reports of staff layoffs, management reshuffles and restructuring last year. There were leadership and management changes in several markets, including Australia, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, India, the Philippines and China.

Despite investing in talent in the mainland, it struggled to convert the LG business beyond some project work in that market. Little headway was made in Japan, and while Thailand and Singapore performed solidly, the leadership disturbances in Malaysia were inevitably destabilizing for the agency, which also lost a chunk of the Astro business there.

McLennan described the agency’s performance as “solid”, but noted that while financial performance was acceptable there were further opportunities in the region. “Globally, North America and Latin America are strong financially. We’d like more local new business out of Asia,” he said.

WPP is understood to have spent several months pursuing Godfrey, who has a long history with the holding company dating back to 1989 when he started his career at George Patterson Bates Sydney with McLennan.

Godfrey is reputed to be a strong team builder and new business dynamo, and his success with clients could be just the shot in the arm the network needs after a relatively soft performance in 2009, say observers.

He is also known for confronting issues head on. But in his new role, he will need to manage relationships that are sensitive to the WPP network in Asia, including LG in Korea, Dentsu in Japan and the Rediffusion-Y&R offering in India.

Like McLennan, Godfrey’s portfolio will not include leadership over Wunderman, which one source described as a missed opportunity. “Without it, the job becomes difficult given the need for integration,” said the source.

“Young & Rubicam has been interesting to watch these past few years as Hamish has reinvented the agency’s model for today’s challenges. It has great brands and some of the smartest and most innovative people in the business. I’m very excited about the future and delighted to work with Hamish again,” said Godfrey, who previously served as GM of both Bates Indochina and Singapore, before being named CEO of Bates Singapore and director of Southeast Asia in 2000. In 2003 he was named COO for the Bates Asia Group, where he remained until he joined Publicis in 2006.

Brahmachary noted on his departure: “I leave here with the satisfaction and pride of having had the opportunity to greatly strengthen the agencies in the region, and with confidence that this terrific regional network will continue on their path to new successes.”

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