WPP Chairman Rails Against ‘Doomsters’

Lader doesn't name names in forceful address during annual meeting

Without warning, the discussion at WPP's annual meeting in Dublin on Thursday suddenly turned to prophecies of end times—end times, that is, for marketing. While discussing numbers that signal an economic rebound for the company, WPP Chairman Philip Lader launched into a surprising attack on those who, he says, are making silly predictions about doomsday for marketing. 

Lader set out to defy the “doomsters” in rather vague comments to shareholders regarding apparent forecasts made about the future of marketing. “There have been commentators—and sometimes thoughtful and authoritative commentators—who have believed, and claimed, that much of the expenditure on marketing communications is prompted by vanity rather than the legitimate pursuit of profit. We have been told that marketing was history and that brands were dead,” Lader asserted.

While the WPP executive lashed out against the alleged marketing naysayers, he did not identify who they might be, or where this rejection of future hope for brands might have occurred. Lader accused these “commentators” of being way off base in their predictions. This provided a convenient segue for the chairman to argue to a crowd of investors that, against great odds, WPP has emerged from the recession intact, moving back towards financial normalcy after what Lader referred to as a few “painful” years.

Lader addressed WPP’s financials as it gets back on its feet, reporting a 6 percent increase in total worldwide revenue in the first four months of 2011. He noted that “the world continues to move at very different speeds,” with a mere 4 percent growth in Western Continental Europe in April, while the BRIC countries dash ahead, boasting a 17 percent revenue jump in the first four months of the year.

On the topic of the company’s prospects in the U.S, where WPP has only seen 8 percent growth in 2011, Lader took a pessimistic view and expressed “concern about the failure of the United States administration to address fiscal deficit reduction” and noted that 2013 may be a challenging year because the “United States president has to finally wrestle with the colossal fiscal deficit, post-election.”

WPP could not be reached for comment.