Minnie Wang
Apr 21, 2023

WPP design powerhouse officially launches as Design Bridge and Partners

Following the merger of Design Bridge and Superunion last summer, leaders of the new company discuss their new identity and organisation in Asia.

Design Bridge and Partners regional leadership team, L-R: Phil Dall (ECD, Singapore, Southeast Asia & India ), Mark Budden (APAC Chairman), Alexandra Cerruti (managing director, Singapore, Southeast Asia & India ), and Ambrish Chaudhry (head of strategy, Singapore, Southeast Asia & India ).
Design Bridge and Partners regional leadership team, L-R: Phil Dall (ECD, Singapore, Southeast Asia & India ), Mark Budden (APAC Chairman), Alexandra Cerruti (managing director, Singapore, Southeast Asia & India ), and Ambrish Chaudhry (head of strategy, Singapore, Southeast Asia & India ).

Design Bridge and Partners has officially launched its new WPP global design company, ten months after the merger of Design Bridge and Superunion was announced in 2022. 

John Morris, former CEO of Design Bridge, is serving as Group CEO, and Jim Prior, previously CEO of Superunion, is the new chairman. Design Bridge and Partners has appointed Mark Budden as chairman for Asia Pacific. Nikki Lin, former managing director of Design Bridge Shanghai, is leading the China team as managing director. 

The new partnership will pull together a network of 850 people globally, operating in 12 markets.  

WPP unveiled Superunion in 2018 when it combined five WPP brand and design agencies—The Partners, Lambie-Nairn, Addison, VBAT and Brand Union. 

In an exclusive interview with Campaign, Prior said that Design Bridge and Partners is “not two companies working together anymore. It's one company working together, and we're very much committed to that”. 

He added, “I think now more than ever, it is time for design. And if we look at the marketing mix as a whole, we hear more and more clients looking at the design as a solution to the big problems and the big questions they had and other disciplines in marketing.”

Budden and Lin also joined the conversation and shared collaborations and the working progress of the merger and launch across the region and in China. 

Campaign: In the past ten months, how did you prepare for this merger at a global level?

Prior: What we've been working on is the best way to organise ourselves in order to deliver and also to get a message together and where we've arrived at is putting design at the heart of every conversation we have with our clients and really elevating the conversation about design. We're now in a position where that message is fully formed and ready to go to market with new website launches this week.  

What new capabilities will Superunion and Design Bridge bring to this new partnership?

Prior: There always has been some overlap in between the two businesses, but there are large areas of capability that are new to each business because of the merger. What this means is that we can now go to clients, whether they are clients that are local, regional or global, and tell them about a more complete range of solutions that span everything from how they set strategy for their enterprise all the way through to how they deliver at every single touch point in whichever marketplace or sector that they operate in. It's a very, very complete range of services.

Will these two agency brands be kept separately or replaced by Design Bridge and Partners?

Prior: It makes much more sense for us to be one brand so that we simplify the journey that our clients take with us, and we make that partnership easier as a brand agency and a design agency. Obviously, our own branding is an important thing for us to get to so we will move forward as Design Bridge and Partners. In some different parts of the world, that transition will be a little longer. Design Bridge and Partners is very much the brand in the marketplace, and the narrative and the story about our brand and the value that we bring to the market.

Will the two teams work together to serve clients or work more independently? Will you still need a further transition period?

Budden: Across Asia, we have eight different studios. We have four full-service studios, one in Shanghai, one in Singapore, one in Hong Kong, and one in Bangkok. And then in addition to those four, we have four small studios, two of which are in China, one in Beijing, one in Shenzhen, one in Jakarta and one in Mumbai. For Bangkok and Hong Kong, they are legacy Superunion businesses, so they are continuing forward with their legacy clients. We will slowly, over time, introduce Design Bridge clients to that capability. 

But if we look at the two biggest studios, Singapore and Shanghai, that's been a different story altogether. So we've had two businesses in both cases, and they've both moved into the same building. The Superunion teams have moved into the Design Bridge studio, so we've become one from the beginning of this year. 

There are a lot of crossovers. What's been interesting about the mergers, is it gives people an opportunity to work in different categories with different clients and have different experiences. 

Did you experience a challenging transition period?

Budden: I have four amazing women running this region. So I’ve got Nikki running China, and I've got Alex running Southeast Asia. I've got Amanda running Bangkok and Hannah, who's also amazing, running Hong Kong. All four of them are extremely capable. But more than that, they're amazing talents. 

So if you've got great collaboration from the start, you go a long way to making the merger effective. And I also think they've all got great generosity of spirit, which also goes a long way if the person leading this has those two qualities.

How would the merger actually affect business operations in southen China? 

Lin: We do see lots of potential coming from the southern part of China, not only from Shenzhen but also Guangzhou. So it's a really good combination, a good compliment, that we actually have one team in southern China.  

Do you have any new capabilities or new plans in the Shanghai office?

Lin: We are co-working on Tencent. We started from the Superunion side, and then now they have an exhibition which brings amazing design to life in a physical space. And then, coming from Design Bridge capability, we have industrial 3D physical design capability in-house. So we're able to join that with Superunion and our physical-digital [services] into a complete experience for our clients.

Design Bridge and Partners China leadership team, L-R: Wenxi Chen (ECD), Nikki Lin (Managing director), and Ray Lan (ECD)

 

Source:
Campaign Asia

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