WPP has had a digital transformation plan in place for over two years and according to company CEO Mark Read the pandemic has accelerated its implementation.
Speaking at the 4A’s Decisions 2020 conference today Read said “the unique nature of COVID has made digital much more powerful.”
Part of WPP’s plan has been to integrate creative and digital capabilities at agencies which he said was “easier to manage” and quicker to implement over the past year. The pandemic, he added “forces you to ask fundamental questions about where the world is going and how to get ahead of it.”
Read, who was interviewed by 4A’s CEO Marla Kaplowitz at the conference, said he was upbeat about the future of the agency business particularly given the industry’s understanding of consumers and technology.
But he also noted that the industry has its work cut out for it in areas like ROI where digital provides an “illusion of accountability” but doesn’t necessarily “link to sales.” Among the company’s top investment priorities are improving ROI, automation and ecommerce capabilities.
On the issue of privacy, Read said that GDPR, where “power is in the hands of the consumer,” will likely become the norm.
Read asserted that WPP has made progress on the diversity front this year but has more work to do. He ticked off a number of accomplishments including publishing U.S. diversity workforce data, creating incentives for senior leadership to improve diversity in the operations they run, implemented employee resources and bias training programs.
Read characterized media arm GroupM as “fantastic business.” The broad challenge as outlined by GroupM CEO Christian Juhl, said Read, is “to make advertising work better for people.” Streaming video is a challenge and the future will bring more automation and programmatic execution particularly to the medium of television, he said.