Sands, who has held the title himself of chairman for nearly 20 years, joined Elmwood at the age of 18 and became managing director just eight years later. He then went on to lead a management buyout aged 28, alongside Greg Taylor, chief provocation officer.
What was once a business with a single Leeds-based studio, has since grown to a global consultancy with additional studios in London, New York, Singapore and Melbourne.
Global marcoms leader, Steve Gatfield, has accepted Sands’ offer to succeed him in chairing the business. Gatfield has been at the vanguard of the industry shift from analogue to digital, bringing experience that is well suited to the creation of what Sands calls ‘Elmwood 3.0’ – the next step in strategic direction.
Gatfield’s focus on the emerging technology sector since 2009 has given him the opportunity to build businesses that are designed to seize the potential of a marcoms landscape ripe for disruption.
Based in New York, Gatfield has held a non-executive role at Elmwood since 2013 and brings significant experience in the marcoms holding company environment, as IPG’s executive vice president for strategy & innovation, chief executive of Lowe & Partners Worldwide, and chief operating officer of Leo Burnett Worldwide.
Gatfield is a director of Open Slate, Believe Entertainment and Sensible Objects, and an adviser to several other content and social media ventures. He serves as a trustee of Watershed Arts Trust in the UK and is a director of Watershed Ventures.
Sands commented: “I am delighted that Steve has accepted the role of Group Chairman of Elmwood. He has been quietly involved in our business for some time and has already made a crucial contribution to our subtle shift in strategic direction.
“After hitting 55 last year and having already been at Elmwood for 34 years, I’ve started to think about ‘Elmwood 3.0’. I love this business and plan to stay around for a good few years; but I want the next management team to be set up for success. To do that we have to embrace the changes we’re seeing in our industry.
“When I started out, the industry was box-shaped. Clients would shop for a design consultancy, a PR consultancy and an ad agency – their needs were simple and one dimensional. That is no longer the case.
“Today, clients are time and budget-poor and need agencies to curate their brand experience through multiple channels. As such, we must go beyond our traditional roots of creating a brand’s distinct point of view and the associated icons, to activating that brand vision across a number of touch points. This can stretch from store design, to the virtual and augmented world of today’s digital landscape.
“Steve’s wealth of experience working in emerging media technologies with a host of digital enterprises, from big data to gaming, is vital to Elmwood’s next generation as curators of brand experiences.”
Gatfield added: “Elmwood has a wealth of talent in its ranks and an appetite for the future. Many of the precepts of effective design are critical to building brand experiences that deploy the full potential of emerging technologies. There is enormous scope to create brand experiences that are design-centered and marry technology with artistry.”
Sands’ role will become focused on internal mentorship, as well as being one of the public faces of the brand. In order not to confuse his role with the studios’ managing partners or Gatfield’s role as group chairman, Jonathan has adopted the rather unique title of ‘vexillifer’ which means ‘standard bearer’.
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