Mark Read, CEO of WPP, has issued an apology for public remarks suggesting that having people over 30 in the advertising business is a liability.
During WPP’s second-quarter investor call this week, Read was asked whether the holding company that includes Ogilvy, Wunderman Thompson, Grey, Finsbury and Kantar Group, among others, has the right mix of digital and traditional television talent.
Answer: “We have a very broad range of skills, and if you look at our people — the average age of someone who works at WPP is less than 30. They don’t hark back to the 1980s, luckily.”
Unsurprisingly, a social media uproar ensued, with professionals debating whether experience is sufficiently valued in the industry.
“If you were a client over 30 years old, how would you feel about the CEO of WPP saying anyone over 30 is crap?,” tweeted Dave Trott, author of “Creative Mischief.”
Gabriel Dorosz, executive strategy director at The New York Times, offered a particularly scathing observation: “I assure you, no one who has worked at WPP, and there are many of us, are shocked or even remotely surprised by Mark Read’s comments.”
Read soon walked back his remarks, tweeting (above), “We're fortunate to have thousands of people at WPP who have decades of experience and expertise. They're extremely valuable to our business and the work we do for clients, and I'm sorry my reply suggested otherwise.” Also: “I was recently asked if our teams have the right balance of skills between TV and digital. I believe they do but was wrong to use age to try to make a point. People over 40 can do great digital marketing just as people under 30 can make great TV ads.”
Read became WPP’s chief executive in 2018, after its founder and longtime leader Sir Martin Sorrell stepped down, amid allegations that he had used company funds to pay for prostitutes. Sorrell has denied all such allegations.