The world’s largest marketing communications company, WPP, on Monday announced it had appointed Mark Read (pictured), 51, as its chief executive officer (CEO), putting an end to the five-month hunt for the successor to Martin Sorrell.
Read’s elevation (he was co-chief operating officer of WPP before the announcement) will give the group’s digital initiatives a boost, especially from the point of view of India, a fast-growing digital advertising market.
The nearly Rs 100-billion domestic digital ad market is expected to cross Rs 120 billion by the end of this calendar year. By 2021-22, India's digital ad market will touch Rs 180-190 billion, led mainly by smartphone penetration and falling data tariffs, reports by most media agencies in recent months said.
Regarded as a “digital guru” within WPP, Read, who joined the group in 1989, is expected to bring his wide experience in the area -- he was the CEO of WPP Digital and Wunderman (a WPP digital agency) earlier and was responsible for acquisitions (such as of 24/7 Real Media globally) as well as aggressively combining WPP's digital strengths across markets.
In India, WPP is the largest advertising and media marketing group and has been driving synergies aggressively in digital and traditional media as the online and offline worlds increasingly come together.
In an interview to Business Standard in May, WPP’s India country manager CVL Srinivas had said about online-offline partnerships following Walmart's acquisition of Flipkart. “I think we are best prepared to handle this reality now that the online-offline spaces are coming together. Most people look at things in a binary fashion. But the reality is that there is one connected world out there. Our biggest strength is that we have been driving an integrated product across digital and traditional media and we will continue to do this.”
Read is also expected to push integration of other WPP services — such as public relations, data analytics, advertising and media — far more aggressively than his predecessor as pressure to get nimbler amid stiff competition from rival marketing communication groups as well as companies such as Google and Facebook for advertising money grows.
In the past few months, WPP has done quite a few things in the country. The group combined the data analytics teams of research agency Kantar and media agency GroupM in India, brought together PR agencies Burson-Marstellar and Cohn & Wolfe in line with global alignments; appointed a new GroupM South Asia CEO in Sameer Singh, who came from Google India, and exited its 24-year-old joint venture with local agency Rediffusion.
In August, WPP also announced it was acquiring mobile marketing agency Madhouse, which has a 50:50 joint venture with GroupM in India, in a bid to increase its interest and investment in the country’s growing mobile marketing and advertising space. GroupM India also acquired a digital creative agency called The Glitch in February.