WPP’s Read promises action in wake of George Floyd tragedy

WPP’s Mark Read has made arguably the strongest statement of intent among agency big bosses about George Floyd, promising, among other things, an “Inclusion Council” to help make the organisation more diverse.

Read said, in a Linkedin post: “the global Inclusion Council will not be a siloed “HR” initiative but the basis for a set of commitments that will apply throughout the company and for which leaders will be held accountable. It will build on our experience with the UK Inclusion Board, which was established two years ago by our UK Country Manager Karen Blackett, who is also the UK Government’s Race at Work champion.”

Mind you, such change isn’t easy in such a rambling and populous outfit. One of the comments on the post criticises an executive at WPP’s GroupM for having a blind spot about race.

Read also says, quoting a contributor to a WPP ‘town hall’ video call: “What is equally clear, though, is that voicing support and acknowledging the issue is not sufficient. Our focus needs to be on action – and not just today. Another comment that hit home was this: ‘Brief pulses of outrage aren’t enough. We need everyone to be committed, consistent, persistent for this to work. We can’t go quiet when the news cycle stops.'”

And there’s the rub. Black people are disadvantaged in many countries, as is evident from the number of BAME deaths from Covid-19 in countries like Britain. Social and economic circumstances must surely have a bearing on this. Trickle down economics don’t seem to leave much for the people at the bottom of the heap; standards of education suffer so black people don’t get the best jobs at places like WPP or in booming sectors like tech.

It will be interesting to see if the actions taken by Read and his peers at Omnicom, Publicis and Interpublic actually change anything. The recent survey by the UK’s IPA agency trade body into BAME representation shows the scale of the mountain to climb.

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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.