Ad holding company bosses weigh in to George Floyd crisis

The bosses of three ad holding companies – John Wren at Omnicom, Interpublic’s Michael Roth and Publicis’ Arthur Sadoun have weighed in as America explodes following the murder of George Floyd. WPP’s Mark Read can be forgiven perhaps for being a little tardy – Americans don’t take kindly to being lectured by Brits.

President Trump wasn’t responsible for the killing of Floyd of course but his disastrous management of the aftermath – including tear-gassing protesters so he could go to church for a photo-op – echoes his fumbled response to Covid-19.

Trump has become a big problem for the US business establishment in an election year (Nike above.) His economic policies have been avowedly pro-business (he still has big business interests of his own) but he’s an embarrassment, a temperamental child in the White House. Many employees (including those at holding company agencies) are disgusted and deterred by his antics. The sense of fear and alienation will be compounded by the wave of redundancies amid Covid-19 (many administered by the gentlemen above.)

Real leadership is required in circumstances where what’s good for business isn’t necessarily good for the country.

Emma Hall adds:

Interpublic Group Chairman and CEO Michael Roth has provided more than a neutral show of support in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, he’s taken action.

In a letter to all staff, Roth describes racism as “an enemy that is even more evil than a virus that has literally shut down our world.” More than that, he admits IPG could do better and commits to linking a successful diversity culture to the remuneration of bosses, something that many campaigners have been calling out for.

Roth says: I am asking our CEO Diversity Council to work together in a more direct, collaborative and organized manner to ensure that our own house is in order. This means we will more tightly align our recognition and incentive programs with our ability to create a more equitable and diverse culture in our own organization.”

This is the strongest response of the agency chiefs. Arthur Sadoun at Publicis Groupe addresses the issue in his weekly video for the troops, acknowledging the “widespread protests in the face of clear acts of violence” referencing for 2000 staff in the US and promising to “create a space to support those conversations and act across the group to build a truly inclusive environment supported by Marcel.”

At WPP, Mark Read retweeted an AKQA film that takes a stand against racism using the now familiar white type on a black background, and admitted that there is room for improvement at WPP. He said: “Racism has no place in society. We can and must do better. This work from AKQA speaks to what we believe at WPP.”

Yannick Bolloré at Havas retweeted a “Silence is betrayal” tweet from fellow Vivendi company, Universal Music, and says: “We are fully supportive of you all.” The music industry has agreed that today is “Blackout Tuesday” and is asking artists to stay off social media for the day.

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About Stephen Foster

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Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

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