WPP’s Mark Read Shares ‘Bright’ Outlook in First All-Staff Memo as CEO

Talks doubling down on tech and data

Read was named CEO this week after months of speculation. Getty Images
Headshot of Patrick Coffee

Mark Read’s first memo as CEO of WPP is unsurprisingly, even defiantly upbeat—even as the holding company faces some of the greatest challenges since Martin Sorrell commandeered the wire and plastics business in 1985.

The memo, which went out to all of the network’s 120,000-plus salaried employees around the world Monday after news of Read’s promotion finally went live, expresses confidence in the future of WPP and, by extension, the larger ad industry.

“Some commentators have questioned the prospects for our industry, but I believe they are bright,” Read wrote in the note acquired by Adweek, which serves as a more detailed version of his statements in Monday’s press release.

He described WPP as a “modern, vibrant organization” that will increasingly move to “adopt much more of a common approach to things like technology, data and production” and invest in areas like AI and programmatic buying in order to win new business and retain existing clients.

Read’s vision is in keeping with analysts’ predictions for the business at large, though only time will tell how effectively it can preserve WPP’s place at the head of the holding company pack.

The full memo has been reprinted below.

To everyone at WPP

What makes WPP special is its people, and although every company in the world says that, in our case it happens to be demonstrably true. WPP is a global powerhouse of talent—a world leader in creativity, a world leader in technology and data, outstanding agencies, strong partnerships with the technology giants and many thousands of clients who place a very high value on our work.

As I said in our public announcement this morning, I’m very proud to have been given the chance to lead this great company as CEO. In the last few months the WPP management team has had tremendous support from people across the company, and I’d like to thank you all for that.

Some commentators have questioned the prospects for our industry, but I believe they are bright. We’re going through a period of structural change, not structural decline, and if we embrace that change we’ll have an exciting and successful future ahead of us.

Our mission now is to build on our strengths, increase the pace of change, and release the full potential that exists within WPP for the benefit of our clients. By doing that, we’ll get ourselves in the best shape to deliver stronger growth for our share owners.

I see WPP as a modern, vibrant organization that works as a team to help our clients succeed and grow through an integrated offer of marketing, consulting and technology services. Our spirit of creativity will always be at the heart of what we do, but pairing that with expertise in technology and data is vital.

Access to our wealth of talent and resources will be even simpler for our clients. We’ll be absolutely focused on what our clients need, and we won’t let our own structures distract us or get in the way. As part of that simplification we’ll adopt much more of a common approach to things like technology, data and production. And we’ll invest in new areas—such as artificial intelligence and programmatic media—that are reshaping our industry.

To help us achieve all these aims, we’ll foster a culture that attracts the best and brightest: inclusive, respectful, collaborative, diverse. Building the new WPP will be a shared endeavour and I’m looking forward to working with and listening to people throughout the company as we develop our plans for the future.

We’ll talk about our progress so far when we update our share owners on our half-year financial results tomorrow—you’ll be able to find the announcement and presentation on WPP.com in the morning.

Finally, I’m delighted to announce that Andrew Scott, who has been a superb colleague during this interim period (and for many years before that), will take up the position of Chief Operating Officer of WPP on a permanent basis as a key member of the senior team.


@PatrickCoffee patrick.coffee@adweek.com Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.