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“A Beautiful and Powerful Feeling”: Sasan Saeidi on Taking the Reins of Wunderman Thompson New York



The agency’s newly promoted CEO speaks to LBB’s Addison Capper about the importance of a healthy culture, his secondary role of ‘chief emotions officer’, and how the topic of business transformation is dominating chats with clients

“A Beautiful and Powerful Feeling”: Sasan Saeidi on Taking the Reins of Wunderman Thompson New York

Sasan Saeidi took the reins as CEO of Wunderman Thompson New York, the network's flagship office, at the beginning of September. Sasan has been a part of the WT family since 2017 when he joined as CEO of its Gulf region. He went on to become the global client leader for Nestlé and most recently held the same role for Coca-Cola, something he'll continue alongside his new responsibilities. Sasan was raised in Canada and has lived in London, New York, Toronto and Dubai. He recently took over as the worldwide chairman and president of the International Advertising Association. 

Sasan also joins at a time of numerous leadership changes across Wunderman Thompson North. Key hires and promotions have included Tom Murphy, chief creative officer, Laura Cona, chief growth officer, Susan Golkin, ECD New York and Ned McNeilage, chief creative officer, Swift, as well as the promotions of Carrie Philpott, chief client officer, and Corrine Hendricks, president, California.

“There is nothing more important in our business today than taking care of our people and ensuring they belong to a winning culture," Sasan said upon being appointed CEO of WT NY. "Motivated people will create great ideas and experiences every day, that will in turn create growth for our clients."

LBB's Addison Capper picked his brains on that and his plans for Wunderman Thompson's flagship office. 

LBB> Firstly, congratulations on the new role! You're now the CEO of Wunderman Thompson's biggest office in terms of business. What are your initial thoughts and plans stepping into the role? 

Sasan> Lots of opportunities for growth, lots of great people, lots of passion for doing great work, lots of heart and ambition. I am very optimistic that we will do some great things together. 

LBB> Why was this an opportunity that you couldn't pass up? 

Sasan> Professional growth happens in the company of great people and leadership. With Audrey [Melofchik, Wunderman Thompson North America CEO] I have that front and centre, and it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass on. New York is our flagship office, and to have the opportunity to lead WT NY is something exceptional. We have a lot of work to do; it’s exciting and I want to use all my energy to drive our people, our clients, and our business forward with purpose. 

LBB> There's been a real flurry of leadership appointments this year across Wunderman Thompson North America. In your view, how is that impacting the energy across the network and, with that in mind, how do you see the overarching vision for WT North America? 

Sasan> The energy is infectious. We have hired some great talent across an array of functions and capabilities, starting with creative and CX - and there will be more to come early next year. This is testament that we want to go from good to great. We invest in our culture and our people, and our strategic and creative product as a means to constantly grow and add value for our clients. We are in the business of “inspiration and marketing transformation” - but creativity is at the heart of what we do. The fact that we have Bas Korsten, Daniel Bonner [global CCOs], Tom Murphy [North America CCO] and of course the great Rob Reilly [WPP global CCO] close by… we have the creative firepower to solve and create and that is such a beautiful and powerful feeling to have. 

LBB> Wunderman Thompson New York has been experiencing quite intense growth in recent months - what is driving this and what kind of challenges have cropped up during your tenure as CEO as a result? 

Sasan> Our industry as a whole is going through a massive transition specifically focused on managing culture, people and the future of work. There is no doubt that as an industry we need to become more people-centric than ever before, and for us, taking care of our talent is the number one item on our list. These topics are allowing us to pivot and become even better when it comes to creating stronger agency cultures that people feel proud to ‘belong’ to.  

LBB> Wunderman Thompson New York is also massive in terms of pure staff numbers. How do you, as the agency's new CEO, deal with that at first and get to know your people? And how is that going so far?  

Sasan> I believe that the best way to get to know your people is to make time for them. Make time for a coffee chat. Walk around and introduce yourself. Join a brainstorm, join a review, join a lunch break, or pop up on someone’s Teams meeting. It’s on ME to connect with every single person and ensure that interaction makes their day, or moment, better - because that’s the job. This job is as much about being a ‘chief executive officer’ as being the ‘chief emotions officer’ or ‘chief energy officer’. 

I love the question ‘how can I help?’ because it sets the context that I am there to serve and support. I am trying to get to know everyone as soon as possible and our first line of business is coming together to discuss how we can make our culture more caring, more human, more brave, more fun and more helpful. 

LBB> You actually pinpointed the importance of culture in the press release announcing your appointment. What are your main aims in terms of company culture and how will you look to achieve them?  

Sasan> There is nothing more important in our business today than taking care of our people and ensuring they belong to a winning culture. A happy culture fuelled by motivated people will create great ideas and experiences every day that will transform and create growth for our clients, resulting in trusted partnerships that are invaluable. Our success starts and ends with how great our culture is. For this culture to truly be representative and sustainable, it needs to be built bottom-up vs top-down. This means having a culture where our people are its architects. This is one of my main objectives to help WT NY become one of the best places to work. 

LBB> What are some key topics that have filled your initial conversations with your new clients so far? 

Sasan> Business transformation: how we can help our clients grow faster through our capabilities, and ensuring they know that nothing is more important for us than investing in the partnership we have together. These are some of the initial chats I am having, and I can’t wait to get more involved with our teams and support them on our client agendas. We need to be more client-centric than ever; and it starts with knowing the business better than anyone while leaning in and questioning everything that we can improve.

LBB> What does the rest of the year hold in store for WT NY? 

Sasan> The remainder of the year is about two things: ensuring we do the utmost for our clients and supporting their brands and business until the last minute. And secondly, agency planning and transformation so we are geared up for an exciting 2023. As the saying goes, ‘When you want to improve, you need to change. When you want to be perfect, you need to change often.’ So, we will constantly look for ways to make our offering better and smarter and this will continue into 2023. 

LBB> Any parting thoughts?

Sasan> I said to our people on my first promise note, that New York is the flagship office of the world, which means everyone that works here is also flagship. It’s the truth; but it’s also about ensuring that we aim high, we aim for moon-shots, as our intent should be for WT NY to become the best agency in the world. 

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Wunderman Thompson USA, Tue, 25 Oct 2022 15:33:08 GMT