Mark Read, CEO of WPP, found himself in “hot water” when, during the company’s earnings call on August 27, he said the “average age of someone who works at WPP is less than 30,” reports Adweek.
These comments, unsurprisingly, did not go over well, continued the post. On Twitter, MakeLoveNotPorn founder Cindy Gallop, former Ogilvy ecd and copy chief George Tannebaum and Fearless founder Ian David criticized Read’s remarks and described them as ageist.
According to Adweek: “Somewhat bizarrely, Read spent part of the weekend individually responding to criticisms in copy-and-paste fashion (with typos to boot). He told two LinkedIn users that “all ages are we valued at WPP and the last thing I would want to suggest is otherwise.” On three separate posts, he wrote that he doesn’t want to “suggest that age is any way a good thing on it’s own and I’m sorry that is how it reads.”
“Read also attempted to explain his rationale: “I was asked by an analyst if we had too many people who just did TV ads and this was my response,” he wrote below one post. “I guess I said it to make a point in defence of all our people. It is an average and we luckily have many above the average, including me.”
“On Twitter, he said he was “wrong to use age to try to make a point.”
“Read’s comments, and his subsequent attempt to make amends, come as the advertising industry grapples with ageism and its longstanding fixation on youth.
“A quick glance at WPP’s 2019 Sustainability Report shows that the majority of its employees, or 74%, are under the age of 39. Only 7% are between the ages of 50 and 59, while a mere 1% are over 60.”
Read is 52 years old.
WPP plc is a multinational communications, advertising, public relations, technology and commerce holding company headquartered in London. It is considered the world’s largest advertising company, as of 2019.