My new column is live in The Drum:
Following Sir Martin Sorrell’s departure from WPP and Mark Read’s appointment as the new chief executive, most discussion has focused on Sorrell’s new company and Read’s vision for the old one. But one issue has gone unmentioned.
“Great ideas come from great people,” Read said during a recent earnings call. “Great strategies come from great people. And so while our technology is part of our offer, even great technology is designed by great people. So, I think we really need to make WPP more than ever a destination for the best talent in the world.”
Every business wants to attract the smartest people. But Read’s statement may specifically refer to a reported labour crisis at WPP. New York University marketing professor Scott Galloway discussed the situation in his 2017 bestseller The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google.
“Some 2,000 of its former employees have migrated to Facebook or Google,” he wrote. “By comparison, only 124 former Facebook or Google peeps left to go work at WPP. Consider the reverse migrants –124 that went back to WPP. Many of them, it turns out, had only interned at Facebook or Google and went to WPP when they weren’t extended offers in Palo Alto or Mountainside. The ad world today is increasingly run by the leftovers.”
It does not stop at WPP. To investigate the industry-wide brain drain, I interviewed senior executives at agencies, universities, and trade organisations throughout the world as well as young marketers in the daily trenches. (A WPP spokesperson said Read was unavailable for comment.)
Most discussed the same causes. Agency staffers are underpaid, overworked, and tempted by dreams of startup riches. New graduates are grabbed by tech companies that have head starts in on-campus recruiting. Students see marketing as unprofessional snake oil. This column will explore these issues.