by Johanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) The AdForum Worldwide Summit 2020 is taking place virtually this year over seven sessions, 29 June–6 July 2020, during which we will ‘meet’ with all of the holding company groups, apart from Publicis Groupe. Ninety-seven pitch consultants from all over the world attended the first session with WPP yesterday, Monday 29 June, which was structured as an open conversation in five parts.

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Open Conversation

Mark Read, WPP CEO

Read highlighted the various stages of what had happened so far during covid-19 and that the group was now in renewal stage. Most notably, he commented that a decade of innovation had happened over a few weeks. Its main concern now was helping its people return to the office environment — while noting that there would always be a mixture of working from home and in the office in future. “Everyone has been terrified about the pandemic and we need to help them recover from this fear.”

Open Culture

Jacqui Canney, WWP global chief people officer
Judy Jackson, WPP global head of culture

A key takeout from this part of the session was how closely these leaders have kept in touch with the WPP staff, constantly checking in with them regarding any support needed etc. Clearly, too, the commitment to gender and racial diversity has become even more pronounced during this time highlighted by the #BlackLivesMatter protests.

Open Creativity

Michael Houston, Grey Group worldwide CEO
Keith Cartwright, Cartwright president/CCO

Houston and Cartwright talked about their collaboration on P&G’s “The Choice” and how they’ve been looking at the world that we’re living in now, how the actions we’re taking are directly affecting the economy and how they’re realising that they have to mould and craft work that is “fit for now”.

Open Data

Di Mayze, WWP global head of data & AI

Wunderman Thompson Amsterdam’s “Unbias Button” for ElaN languages was shown at this point to demonstrate how technology can help the world undo unconscious biases.

Open Questions

Laurent Ezikiel, WPP chief marketing & growth officer

We 97 pitch consultants had many questions regarding WPP acquisitions; sustainability (doing “greener things”); and WPP and offices in the future (what the future working day will look like).

WPP acquisitions

  • Future acquisitions will be very targeted in the areas where it sees growth, such as digital transformation etc. There hasn’t been a rush to make acquisitions in the past few months.
  • There won’t be any more mergers within the WPP group as it stands; those have all been completed and have been very successful for Wunderman Thompson, VMLY&R and BCW, in particular

Sustainability — doing “greener things”

  • Cutting its carbon footprint — less travel. There’s been a realisation through covid-19 that jumping on a plane to attend a meeting for an hour in another city or country is no longer necessary.
  • Office buildings and use of power resources in various cities are all being reviewed with a view to renewable energy and better use of resources

WPP & offices in the future

A question was asked about the working day and the working environment.

  • The 9-5 every day in the office appears to be over. Staff will probably be working a mixture of at home and at the office.
  • The commute is a big issue for staff on public transport in big cities such as New York City, London and other European cities, let alone in China and rest of Asia — and we know here in South Africa that public transport presents big dangers for staff travelling to and from work.
  • Office space will have to be reconfigured, with more space, fewer cubicles and more fresh air. Making the office an attractive place that’s desirable to come to will be a key ingredient for the offices of the future for WPP.

Our next session will be with Dentsu Aegis Network North America today, Tuesday 30 June.

PS It’s been wonderful to reconnect with all of our colleagues as we’ve missed seeing each other this year so far.

See also


Johanna McDowellJohanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) is MD of the Independent Agency Search and Selection Company (IAS), which is partnered with the AAR Group in the UK. Twice a year she attends AdForum Worldwide Summits. Further answers to the above questions plus some more work from WPP will be shared at her IAS masterclasses for agencies and marketers on 14 and 21 July 2020.

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