SYDNEY — Weber Shandwick and sister IPG brand experience agency Jack Morton have announced the appointment of Jack Morton MD Helen Graney as group managing director of both Australian businesses.

Graney replaces Weber Shandwick’s previous Australia MD, Ava Lawler, who left the agency last summer for personal reasons. Graney has been managing director of Jack Morton since 2009 and is recognised as one of the most progressive communications leaders in the Australian market.

Weber Shandwick confirmed that the Jack Morton co-leadership arrangement was unique to its Australian business. In Asia Pacific, the only other place where there is dual leadership across another sister IPG agency is in Korea, where Tyler Kim helms both Weber Shandwick and McCann Health.

Each agency will retain its separate brand entity and maintain independent clients as well as employees, number around 40 at Weber Shandwick and 25-30 at Jack Morton, including contractors. The two businesses already operate from the same building and collaborate on integrated client work under the Interpublic Group’s Open Architecture initiative.

In her extended role, Graney will report to Weber Shandwick’s Asia Pacific CEO Baxter Jolly, and Jack Morton international president Julian Pullan. She will work closely with Ian Rumsby, Weber Shandwick’s Australia chairman and Asia Pacific strategy chair.

Rumsby told the Holmes Report: “We spent a good amount of time in the marketplace looking at the kind of individual we wanted to lead the business for the long-term. A priority was someone to help us navigate our transformation journey: we have a lot of PR experts, but we needed someone with experience in leading large teams that address complex issues in an evolving structure.

“I’ve worked with Helen for a long time and the opportunity to bring her into the organisation to address those challenges is exciting. The business has really progressed over the past 12 months thanks to a strong management team and Helen’s task is built on solid foundations.”

Graney added: “At Jack Morton we’ve talked for a long time about how it’s increasingly important for brands to do rather than say. To focus on marketing communications and brand reputation alongside brand experience is very exciting. This will mean we can draw on an extensive pool of experience, and collaborate even better on providing interesting, relevant, data-driven, creative experiences for clients who are looking for integrated thinking and good ideas, and are less interested in where they originate.”

Graney said her priority was to meet all individuals within the Weber Shandwick business, as well as clients, before looking at how to build new ways of collaborative working. “I feel very confident stepping into this role because there is so much bench strength in both agencies, but it’s likely I’ll need support in this new role – maybe someone with a strong client or commercial bent – to enable me to be across the top of both businesses. First, though, it’s about understanding what both businesses need, and where the greatest opportunities lie.”