Internal Memo: WPP CEO Mark Read Announces Global CCO John O’Keeffe’s Departure

By Erik Oster 

WPP CEO Mark Read announced in an internal memo to leadership today that global CCO John O’Keeffe is stepping down.

The news came on the heels of WPP announcing further cost-cutting measures in its Q1 earnings report yesterday, as well as the announcement that Ogilvy CEO John Seifert is retiring in 2021.

In the memo, Read attributed O’Keeffe’s departure to WPP’s new strategy of strengthening individual agency brands, which has “placed greater responsibility for creative standards with the agencies themselves.”


Read goes on to thank O’Keeffe for this longstanding contributions to WPP over 12 years, following his arrival from BBH London, where he served as executive creative director. He concludes by expressing a desire to celebrate O’Keeffe’s accomplishments and give him a proper sendoff at a future date, inviting recipients to wish him well and thank him for his contributions to the holding company until that is possible.

Here’s the memo in full:

I am writing with the news that, after 12 highly successful years with WPP, John O’Keeffe is stepping down as Chief Creative Officer.

As you know, under our new strategy we’ve strengthened our agency brands and increased investment in their creative talent. As part of that, we’ve placed greater responsibility for creative standards with the agencies themselves, which is the reason that John will be leaving us. He does so with our very best wishes.

John joined the company in 2008 with the mission of ensuring WPP was recognised as an industry leader not only for its scale, but also for its creativity and effectiveness. During his time with us he has helped WPP to win the Cannes Lions creative holding company of the year award no less than seven times, and the Effies on eight occasions.

As well as helping our agencies and clients to succeed he has been one of the driving forces behind initiatives such as WPP’s involvement in Common Ground, the cross-industry programme to help deliver the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and before that Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project. And he has been a mentor to many of the graduates who have come through WPP’s Fellowship scheme.

Before WPP, John was the Executive Creative Director of BBH in London, which collected 14 agency of the year titles during his tenure, and he has always been a passionate advocate for creative agency brands. He has also been a great champion of creative talent within our agencies and in the wider world – not least through the D&AD New Blood Academy which he has long supported.

Current events mean that we won’t be able to give him a send-off in person right now, but we will find a way to celebrate his achievements and say goodbye properly when we can.

In the meantime, I know you will join me in wishing him well for the future and thanking him for his tremendous contribution to WPP.