Staff Reporters
Feb 16, 2021

VMLY&R selects Isobar's Thomas Tearle as AUNZ CEO

Incumbent Jon Bird to become chairman in continuing top-level reshuffle across WPP's agencies.

Thomas Tearle, the new CEO for VMLY&R's AUNZ business.
Thomas Tearle, the new CEO for VMLY&R's AUNZ business.

A year on from announcing plans to right its struggling business in the AUNZ region, WPP AUNZ has made another reshuffle to its agency top management. This time it is the turn of VMLY&R, as CEO Jon Bird has been replaced within two years of taking charge by Thomas Tearle, who is currently managing director of digital agency Isobar. 

Bird took over when the agency's co-CEOs Aden Hepburn and Pete Bosilkoviski had quit within the same month in June 2019. He has been promoted to executive chairman of the shop, a role in which he will work alongside Tearle to continue to drive client strategy and growth across VMLY&R. Bird will also devote more time to VMLY&R global leadership team responsibilities, the company said.

Tearle joins VMLY&R from a seven-year stint at Isobar, in which time he was promoted three times, most recently to Australia MD in July 2020. During his tenure he was responsible for the mergers of both Soap Creative and WiTH Collective with the agency, expertise that will prove useful as WPP folds Geometry into VMLY&R, forming a new unit called VMLY&R Commerce.

At VMLY&R, he will focus on developing digital, CX and commerce capabilities for brands across the region.

Tearle is taking leave from his role at Isobar, which will be temporarily overseen by client partner Johan Borg, until the agency assesses the leadership requirements for its business. 

Previous to Isobar, he held senior roles with agencies in the UK and Australia including Wunderman (a WPP agency, now Wunderman Thompson), where he led the Coca-Cola partnership.

Tearle will also become a member of the WPP AUNZ brand leadership team reporting to WPP AUNZ CEO Jens Monsees and globally through VMLY&R to Beth Wade, global chief marketing officer. 

Monsees welcomed Tearle's experience "in delivering truly effective connected digital experiences", which he noted "is a real boost to WPP AUNZ’s already impressive leadership capacity."

In a nod to the direction he is pushing the network and individual agencies in the region, he added that "combining cutting-edge technology with our world-class creative capabilities is what sets WPP AUNZ apart, and Tom’s appointment is indicative of the strength of our vision."

Across the network, Monsees has been ringing in the changes to try and boost WPP's growth in the region. While long-serving chairman John Steedman retired after a 45-year run with the network, WPP also changed its New Zealand top management in January 2020. Elsewhere, the agency had announced a leadership change at Wunderman Thompson, with Lee Leggett replacing John Gutteridge as CEO.

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