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WPP sees rise in whistleblower complaints

WPP received 64% more complaints to its whistleblower helpline in 2023 against 2022 (up to 612 from 372.) Most complaints were concerning “respect in the workplace” and “protection of WPP’s assets” (which might mean anything.)

Worth bearing in mind that WPP currently employs 114,000 people across the world so 612 isn’t that many and more publicity for the helpline has probably attracted more complaints. As the ad holding company navigates a rather uncertain future, with a number of big internal mergers already in place and very likely more to follow, it would be surprising in the number doesn’t keep rising. People will be worried about their jobs (and the impact of the dreaded AI.)

The company says “every report is tracked through to a conclusion” and “WPP is committed to providing a safe and confidential way for people with genuine concerns to raise them, and to do so without fear of reprisals.

“WPP does not tolerate any retaliatory behaviour against individuals reporting concerns and is equally committed to preserving the anonymity of an individual who makes a report and does not wish to have their identity revealed.”

WPP does seem to be taking such matters more seriously than some of its rivals. There have been a number of reports suggesting that DEI is in fairly full retreat with some high profile DEI leader hires quietly shuffling off to pastures new.

Agency land is always going to finds such issues a problem because of its inherent insecurity. As the great Sir Nigel Bogle observed, any agency is only three client phone calls from disaster.

WPP might be wishing it had made rather less – publicly at least – of its DEI initiatives.

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