“I Am Focussed On WPP”: Mark Read

WPP’s joint COO Mark Read is not letting anything distract him from a future focused plan that he says is client-centric, more collaborative internally and will assert the holding company’s leadership position as it undergoes “radical evolution”.

Mark Read did not really have the most enviable role being named the joint chief operating officer of WPP after Sir Martin Sorrell stepped down as the holding company’s CEO. It was not the role itself –– Mr Read, a WPP veteran, is among select few who know the functioning of the company and its various assets. It was instead the slew of controversies that surrounded and followed the development, which in many ways, did not paint WPP in a good light.

The story of continued decline in the preceding year, a sense of losing touch with strategies that would make the company future ready or implications of systemic bullying all meant that the joint COO was doing more than just running the daily affairs of the ad giant.

Mr Read however does not seem to ever lose his calm demeanor. In a conversation with Arabian Marketer, he explains, “I am focused on WPP’s future. Ever since Andrew (Scott) and I have stepped in as COOs, I have been spending my time talking to clients. Our operating companies have strong leadership. We have people like Roy Haddad (Director, WPP MENA) to represent us in important regions. It is all of this that is really important to us, and makes me very positive about the company.”

He explains that WPP does not need a revolution but “radical evolution”. When marketers say they want to reduce production cost today, they don’t mean by 10 percent but by 80 percent. For Mr Read, it is changes such as these that require a company to look across its overall offer for ‘radical’ solutions, and to do it consistently across the group.

Does leading an interim role come with some constraints on decision making to steer WPP? “No one would want the group to stand still, and that’s the basis on which we are working. Ultimately the board will be responsible for the strategy of the company and we will work with the new CEO to build on that strategy,” he explains, reminding that there are certain core points that can be expected in WPP’s future strategy.

Being a client centric organization is one. Another is to create well-trained, next generation of client leaders who are fluent in marketing, data and technology and are eager to have more people with much more skills. “We need to invent data and move from data ownership to using data in the market. We need to make technology work harder for marketers, and we have to ensure we have the strongest creative talent and an inclusive culture,” he says.

WPP is perhaps the only holding company that has a regional head at holding company level. Mr Read asserts that even in a new order, this role will continue to be important. “We need to organize WPP around clients, around our companies and around our countries. We need to gather all our strengths in our important markets. That doesn’t mean that individual brands are less important. It’s that we have someone who can help our brand develop the right way and make the company stronger.”

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