Top GTB Creative Resigns Amid Executive Changes, VMLY&R Partnership

By Patrick Coffee 

(Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)

In case you missed it, WPP’s dedicated Ford agency GTB has gone through some more changes after the client officially sent lead creative duties on its business to BBDO and Wieden + Kennedy New York last year.

First, the agency told trade publications that it planned to part with around 2 percent of total global staff. Earlier this week, The Drum also broke the news that the agency would effectively join with VMLY&R in a new Dearborn, Michigan WPP union. As explained in that piece, some former GTB executives will now be leaders of a division known as VMLY&R Detroit—specifically chief experience officer Tim Reisen, now CEO of that company, and managing partner/executive director for global experience strategy Aleksandr Niestroj, now executive director of strategy and insights.

GTB’s top creative leader, U.S./North American executive creative director Matt Soldan, has also resigned after four and a half years with the organization.

Soldan declined to comment and referred us back to GTB. Multiple parties, however, told us that he stepped down to launch his own independent shop. Check out his portfolio here.

The outgoing ECD became GTB’s top creative after the late 2018 departure of CCO Tito Melega, who declined to comment at the time. He’s following in the steps of predecessor Toby Barlow, who also started his own company called Lafayette American just under one year ago.

According to several sources, GTB leadership was aware of the VMLY&R news “well in advance” of the Drum story, but there appears to be some confusion among staff regarding its specifics. For one, VMLY&R does not currently have a separate office, and it is unclear whether one will open in the foreseeable future.

As we hear it from a current employee, the ostensibly new organization created by this change employs “the same people” working in “the same building” and performing the same work for the same client.

Some, however, are now officially VMLY&R employees while others remain with GTB—and those with new assignments also follow a revised reporting structure. That’s where some confusion comes in, according to two people who spoke of communications challenges among staff. One said there’s been little in the way of agency-wide exchanges on who reports where, though “water cooler talk” and “updated LinkedIn profiles” have provided some clarity.

The structural change is not an entirely new development as some people who were technically VML employees had been part of the GTB organization for some time. (GTB started as a combination of multiple WPP agencies.)

A GTB spokesperson declined to comment on Soldan’s departure or the VMLY&R news.

On the creative side, a former employee who got cut in the summer of 2017 but remains close with other current staffers wrote, “Content is sort of running things now.” And here’s the latest ad in the “Built Ford Proud” campaign, created by African American AOR UWG. (We previously attributed this work to BBDO and Wunderman based on the iSpot listing.)