WPP promotes Karen Blackett to be its first UK president

Karen Blackett is the first person to be made president of WPP in the UK, continuing her steady rise at the group where she’s worked for nearly 20 years.

Blackett is a big talent and a huge asset to WPP thanks to her standing in the UK business community, her MBE, her client skills and her stance on diversity. She has been promoted regularly since she started work at WPP in 2004 and her next stop is surely global.

Her promotion follows the recent appointment of Rose Herceg and Michael Houston to president roles in Australia & New Zealand and the US respectively. A replacement for Blackett’s role as UK CEO of GroupM will be announced soon, but the UK country manager role will no longer exist.

Blackett started her career at CIA MediaNetwork in the early 90s, and her WPP career began when the group bought MediaCom (where she was marketing director) in 2004. She was made chair of the agency in 2016, became WPP country manager in 2018, and added the GroupM UK CEO title in 2020.

Blackett said: “I took on the GroupM role in the first week of lockdown in 2020, with a focus on guiding the business through the pandemic and beginning the transformation of GroupM in the UK. We’ve made huge progress and achieved so much in those two and a half years and I’m delighted to be able to hand the baton to a new leader with the organisation in good health. The UK is such an important market for WPP, with so many fantastic people, clients and partners, and I’m looking forward to being able to devote all of my time and attention to the country leadership role.”

The move is presented as a way to simplify WPP’s operations in the UK, which is the group’s second largest territory after the US, with ad revenues of $2bn and a staff of 12,000.

Mark Read, CEO of WPP, said: “As we bring our agencies together in our new campuses and deliver increasingly integrated services for our clients, the scale and significance of the UK market requires a role with full-time focus. We also learned during lockdown – when it was essential we acted as one company – how important it is to have dedicated country leadership in our major markets around the world. Karen is one of the most admired figures in our industry and the kind of collaborative, people-focused leader who is perfect for this role.”

WPP has recently opened Rose Court, another building near its Sea Containers HQ in Southwark, and plans to move into the refurbished former Financial Times building, also nearby.

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