Q&A: Wunderman Thompson’s North American CCO Taras Wayner on Shaping the Agency’s Future

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The past year has been nothing short of a whirlwind for Wunderman Thompson, the global agency formed by the merger of J. Walter Thompson and Wunderman in late 2018.

Since the two WPP shops combined forces, Wunderman Thompson has made a number leadership hires and changes, such as naming Bas Korsten and Daniel Bonner as global chief creative officers. After naming Shane Atchison as North American CEO, Wunderman Thompson made several executive appointments at its New York headquarters.

Toward the end of last year, Wunderman Thompson announced that Taras Wayner would be joining the agency as its North American chief creative officer, leaving his post at Saatchi & Saatchi New York. Prior to his short stint at Saatchi & Saatchi, Wayner spent a number of years at R/GA, where he served as U.S. co-chief creative officer.

During his time at R/GA, Wayner worked on the Emmy-winning “Love Has No Labels” campaign for the Ad Council. At Wunderman Thompson, he’ll spearhead creative efforts for companies including Rolex and Newell Brands, all while helping the newly established entity find its way and set itself up for future success.

“There are so many things that I keep unearthing that are just really, really exciting,” Wayner said.

A week into officially starting his new gig, Adweek spoke with Wayner to get a sense of what will be keeping him busy at the agency.

What interested you in this opportunity?
It’s a combination of amazing pieces. You have the rich heritage of storytelling from J. Walter Thompson, but then you mix it with data and technology. It’s what we have to bring together. It reminds me very much of R/GA, but a deconstructed version of it that hasn’t been completely formed and put together. I think that’s a really exciting thing.

How has your past experience informed your current role and what you hope to do?
You pick up something wherever you’ve worked, right? There’s so much about working with Nick Law and Bob Greenberg that really inspired me to continue this idea of creating a design-centric maker’s culture, meaning we should be closing the distance between thinking and making, and working in more of a studio atmosphere. It’s really why my first hire [at Wunderman Thompson] was Vin Farrell, who’s the global head of content at R/GA. He’s someone who’s not exactly like myself, but someone who can bring action to ideas and really produce an agency, as well as create a new model for how we modernize making.

What have you been tasked with in this role?
Obviously, we need to develop and create a new creative culture for the company. How do we build, nurture and launch a specific Wunderman Thompson culture? It really needs to be work-first. With any type of creative agency, the first thing you do is look at the work. The interesting history that we’re bringing together to create a new, modern type of making and thinking is a culture that I think people will be drawn to.

How will you contribute to Wunderman Thompson’s new business strategy?
It’s going to be important to help clients understand what we stand for, which will take a little bit of time to put together. But there are clients out there that are ambitious—they want to grow, they want to modernize how they’re making their content and how they’re going about doing that—and I think it’s about building teams that can connect with those like-minded clients. Clients need agencies that can help them dream and help them grow, but also be as ambitious as they are and interested in the future of what content or data or strategy is.



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