By Joe Mayes
Mark Read is stepping out from the shadow of WPP founder Martin Sorrell as the British advertising company’s new chief executive, and he has a clear message: Change is coming.
“There are no sacred cows,” Read said in an interview, shortly after WPP confirmed his appointment.
In an unusually lengthy statement, Read promised renewal and a different style that would be “inclusive, respectful, collaborative, diverse”.
That is a thinly-veiled criticism of the approach of his former boss, who earned a reputation as abrasive to downright bullying.
The industry is up against increasingly powerful digital rivals and battling declines in spending by consumer goods companies.
His resume hardly suggests a clean break for WPP: Read joined as a corporate development manager in 1989, three years after Sorrell founded the advertising group, and has stayed put for most of his career apart from a period outside the company in the 1990s.
As a past head of strategy and head of digital at WPP, Read is partly responsible for where the world’s largest ad company is today.
While he may not take a hatchet to Sorrell’s legacy, Read, 51, has made some symbolic moves in recent months as WPP’s interim head of operations: Selling some minority stakes, such as in digital ad company AppNexus and Latin American tech firm Globant, and making plans to move WPP’s head office from its longstanding headquarters in London’s high-class Mayfair district.
Investors will get a further taste of his approach later today, when WPP reports interim financial results.
Some restructuring seems likely, with Read saying he may look to reduce the number of brands.
There are more than 100, ranging from creative agencies Ogilvy and J Walter Thompson to media houses Wavemaker and Mindshare.
“We may not need as many of them as we had in the past,” Read said.
WPP shares, which had been up slightly, have fallen 28% in the last two years.
Read will be paid an annual salary of £975,000 (€1.08m) plus the opportunity for bonuses.
His pay is set to be lower than Sorrell’s.