Volkswagen’s bespoke WPP agency Type1 is getting new leadership, as Christine Maw takes over as president following the retirement of Michael Sergio in late April.
“It’s a dream job,” said Maw, who was chief strategy officer at Taxi, leading all strategy and planning for VW. “It’s an iconic brand, I love working on cars, and it’s a cool time to be working on cars with the move towards electrification and digital transformation.”
Type1 was created by WPP after winning the automaker’s North American creative assignment in 2018. In Canada, it’s largely been driven by Taxi and Wunderman Thompson, with contributions from other WPP agencies as needed. There are about 67 people working on the business in Toronto, and another 10 or so in Montreal, said Maw.
Type1 has its office in the Taxi building on Wellington St. in Toronto, but will have its own space when it moves to the new WPP headquarters on the city’s waterfront later this year.
WPP sees Type1 as one of the best examples of how well its “super agency” model can work, said Maw, so there won’t be much change at the agency as she moves into the president role.
However, with Maw promoted to president, Andrew Ahern has been brought on board as group strategy director. “He’s fantastic and he will very much lead the strategy team,” said Maw. “But of course, I will also have my eyes on it because I still very much love strategy. But my focus obviously has to be steering the ship and running the agency in its totality.”
(Taxi president Emma Toth confirmed that with Maw now entirely focused on Type1, Rafik Belmesk, vice-president, head of strategy, will head up strategy in Montreal and Toronto, with Vancouver managing director Lizzie Dabous leading on the West Coast.)
Type1 also announced that Allen Kwong has been promoted to group creative director. “Allen has always been the leader of the creative team for Type1 across all channels,” said Maw. He’ll still report to the creative leadership at Taxi, but “really is very much the driving force behind Type1 in the creative department.”
As a global brand, some of VW’s marketing is picked up and adapted from other markets. But the brand also has a much different position in Canada compared to the US, meaning that distinctly Canadian strategy and marketing is also important, said Maw.
The Canadian car market has always been more open to European models and smaller cars, and views VW as a “near premium” brand, for example. Generally speaking, Canada is also further ahead of U.S. shoppers when it comes to electric vehicles, which aligns well with Volkwagen’s global commitment to carbon-neutral mobility for everyone.
“Volkswagen North America very much sees Canada as an opportunity market to try and pilot some interesting things as we shift to EVs that maybe they’re not ready for in the U.S.” That focus on electric was the inspiration for Type1’s multi-award winning “Carbon-Neutral Net.”