The Holmes Report: Waggener Edstrom brings in Michael Murphy for Global Advisory Role

Waggener Edstrom has brought in former Grayling CEO Michael Murphy as a senior global advisor, as part of an effort to rejuvenate growth at the firm.

Murphy takes on the non-executive role with immediate effect, reporting to CEO Melissa Waggener Zorkin and the firm’s global board.

His arrival comes two years after he stepped down as Grayling global CEO, after a 20-year run in senior positions for Shandwick, Trimedia and Grayling at an EMEA, Asia-Pacific and global level.

At Waggener Edstrom, Murphy is tasked with “accelerating growth across a number of different areas,” said the agency’s EMEA head Chris Talago. “Account growth, organic growth and M&A.”

Murphy takes on the position at an agency that has experienced some turbulence in recent times, with senior departures in North America and EMEA including chief client officer Claire Lematta, former North American lead Jenny Moede and UK GM Cairbre Sugrue.

A decline in business from key client Microsoft, furthermore, forced WagEd to cut its global workforce by 5% last year. The upshot is that, despite growth in Asia-Pacific and EMEA, global revenues were down by 1% in 2013 to $118m, with the $98m North American business declining by 3%.

“Any agency worth its salt continually needs to search for the brightest and the best,” said Talago. “We’re certainly not proud enough to believe we’ve got a monopoly on all the good ideas.”

Murphy, for his part, believes that WagEd has plenty of opportunities for growth, particularly given its technology heritage.

“There’s a thirst in the marketplace for independents,” he told the Holmes Report. “It’s perhaps not as proactive as some of its competitors in talking about its great achievements, and that’s one of the things that I’m hoping to encourage it to do.”

Murphy pointed out that he will focus on the agency’s medium and long-term strategy, looking at M&A, talent acquisition and international new business growth.

“The agency is really strong with a really good reputation,” he added. “It’s not resting on its laurels. It recognises that it has to change and it has changed over recent years. That pace of change will continue to accelerate.”

Murphy will continue to run the advisory business that he launched last year, which supports the growth of companies and agencies. For WagEd, the hope is that the former Grayling CEO’s network of contacts and international experience can help rejuvenate its offering.

“Michael’s global mindset and experience offer Waggener Edstrom a strong advantage as we pursue higher levels of global growth,” added Waggener Zorkin.


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