by Herman Manson (@marklives) Wunderman Thompson South Africa has announced the appointment of Miles Murphy as its new CEO, effective April 2020. Haydn Townsend, who’s been group CEO for four years, will be relocating to London in May 2020 as he transitions into a global client lead role. Townsend will serve as Wunderman Thompson SA chairperson until such a time as a new appointment is announced.

Murphy joins the WPP agency from Publicis Groupe Africa, where he most recently served as chief operating officer. He is the founder of Liquorice (today Digitas Liquorice), which he sold to Publicis in 2014.

Wunderman Thompson SA, the result of a merger between Wunderman and J. Walter Thompson, employs 500 people and has offices in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town. It generates revenue of around R500m, according to MarkLives’ 2019 Agency Revenue Rankings, and has four divisions covering advertising, digital, consulting and technology. It also recently introduced Prism Sport + Entertainment to the group to handle sponsorships.

Career highlight

During his tenure, Townsend first united Wunderman, Aqua, Applogix, Base Two and Cerebra into a single agency with a common brand purpose and culture — a feat he describes as a career highlight. More recently, he has worked at integrating J Walter Thompson and Mirum (formerly Quirk) into the new Wunderman Thompson offering to great effect, lining up client wins from Absa (creative agency for Retail & Business Banking South Africa), Standard Bank (digital agency) and BMW Group South Africa (BMW and MINI on ATL, digital, social and direct, experiential, content and CRM).

Meanwhile, Jim Faulds, who has been J. Walter Thompson’s South African CEO since September 2014, left his position at the group at the end of 2019, although he continues to consult on Diageo until the end of March 2020. Prior to his CEO role, he’s been managing director at the agency since 2007.

“Honestly, I’m really excited about the future and believe that the combined capabilities of Wunderman Thompson make for a very compelling proposition in the market,” Faulds told MarkLives shortly before his departure. “I’ve made some life-long friends with many of the people I’ve been fortunate enough to work with at the agency and on the client side, so this doesn’t feel like a goodbye. Rather, it’s the perfect time for me to step aside and see some of the young talent that has emerged take things forward. I have no doubt that the new exec and leadership team will have a blast and make every success of this opportunity.”

“Brilliant history”

“I’ve been a massive admirer of Miles for some time now,” says Ewen Sturgeon, Wunderman Thompson CEO, Europe and South Africa since May 2019. “He is a well-respected marketing leader with a brilliant history of leveraging breakthrough creativity, data and emerging technology to inspire growth for clients and partners. His experience of bringing together pioneering businesses to create something new and unique is why he is perfect to lead our South African business. We are thrilled to have Miles join the Wunderman Thompson family.

“I would also like to thank Haydn for what he has accomplished. He has created a fantastic, award-winning agency in South Africa and positioned our team there to continue our growth streak.”

“Wunderman Thompson has brought together some of the best creative, data and tech minds globally and in South Africa,” says Murphy on his appointment. “The SA team is on a real winning streak and I am truly honoured and enthused to lead the agency of the future here is South Africa. Clients are calling out for a new kind of partner that helps them thrive in this challenging environment and I know that Wunderman Thompson has the right formula to do this.”

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Herman Manson 2017Herman Manson (@marklives) is the founder and editor of

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