Global Restructuring at TBWA\Media Arts Lab as Apple Shifts Toward Digital, Regional Work

By Patrick Coffee 

This week Apple made some changes to its longstanding relationship with dedicated agency TBWA\Media Arts Lab.

According to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the matter, this amounts to a global pivot toward digital and regionally-focused work rather than a complete overhaul of the partnership. It did, however, involve a general spending cut that led to layoffs at Media Arts Lab offices in L.A. and abroad.

MAL will continue to work on the business, though Apple has produced more of its brand campaigns in-house since 2014, when a series of emails between the agency and client SVP of marketing Phil Schiller came to light.


An MAL spokesperson released the following statement:

“TBWA\Media Arts Lab is reorganizing and introducing a new operating model to keep pace with the way people consume media and content. This will result in a reduction in areas such as localization and further investment in areas such as digital, social, data analytics, content creation and a more diverse set of strategic skills. We will also have greater integration with media partners at OMD.”

Apple representatives declined to comment, and former Grey CCO/current VP of marketing communications Tor Myhren has not yet responded to our email.

The scale of the headcount reduction is unclear at this time. But sources close to the matter say that the “translation and transcreation” departments were most affected because, as noted in the statement above, Apple plans to create more regionally-targeted efforts rather than translating its larger brand campaigns for local consumers around the world.

Here, for example, is a new campaign from TBWA Brazil that launched this week.

According to the same sources, MAL is currently hiring for certain teams, especially on the digital front—despite the fact that some creatives laid off this week have begun interviewing at other area agencies.

In keeping with that digital shift, expect more :15s created to air on Facebook or Instagram and fewer big-story TV spots.

In other MAL news, the \FOR GOOD division launched by Lee Clow to focus on purpose-driven work has moved into the TBWA\Chiat\Day L.A. offices.

Former MAL CCO Duncan Milner took over that unit late last year as Brent Anderson was promoted to run the Apple business around the world.