"Perhaps horizontality was too much about bringing ourselves together, not about what is the right solution for the client."
A simple statement, maybe, but the words of WPP’s new joint chief operating officer Mark Read – in his first official appearance since Sir Martin Sorrell’s inglorious exit – cut through the problem many businesses face. As organisations try to reorganise around their latest boss’ turnaround vision, it’s all too easy to lose sight of the wood for the trees.
So, WPP wants to get closer to clients, focusing more on them and their challenges, rather than looking inward at itself.
Ding ding – that will no doubt be welcome news ringing out to the 100 marketers we are celebrating in this issue of Campaign.
While we’re devoting a chunk of this magazine to the historic moment that is Sorrellquake – not just the scandal, but a celebration of his milestones, a look at what’s in store in the post-Sorrell era for WPP and the agency model, plus reflections on the man – I won’t focus on that here.
WPP’s situation could be a catalyst for change across adland, but none of it would matter without brilliant brand marketers believing in, fuelling and buying great work.
Reading through the profiles of 100 of the UK’s most visionary, influential and powerful marketers, gives a much-needed shot of optimism. Take Mars’ Michele Oliver, who Cilla Snowball describes as having a "determination to create work that matters, work that makes a positive difference in the world", as well as possessing a fearlessness, a dedication to her team and a deep connection to her customers.
Oliver is one of four marketers – alongside Unilever’s Aline Santos, Direct Line Group’s Mark Evans and Diageo’s Syl Saller – with entries written by senior industry players, who clearly have been inspired by working alongside these remarkable individuals.
I defy anyone to read Saller’s profile, by Gemma Greaves at The Marketing Society, and not have a voice within repeatedly saying: "I can do that."
From the established industry stars (although if John Lewis’ press office had its way Craig Inglis might not have made the list with his broader customer role. No, he’s ours!) to new faces and a new generation, like BrewDog’s Sarah Warman, what a cracking group of people. And you should have seen the long list – it’s honestly not easy selecting only 100.
It is often said that marketing directors are fickle beasts with short tenures. Well, this year Campaign’s Power 100 Hall of Fame is doubling in size from 10 to 20 people for those marketers who’ve made the list for five years or more.
As adland feels the aftershocks from Sorrellquake, perhaps this stability from the brand marketers – the clients – will help secure the foundations.
While our Power 100 marketers are as eclectic as ever, they have all won their place in this list by demonstrating new thinking, effectiveness and determination to deliver great work and build great brands. Fairness, respect and a belief in new ways of working are also key qualities they possess.
That makes them pretty amazing partners with whom to make fearlessly brilliant work that shapes our industry’s future.
I’ll leave you with a quote from Saller that resonates on many levels for what’s ahead, whether you’re looking to adapt a strategy of horizontality, take creative risks or something more personal: "The way you become brave is one terrifying step at a time." •
Rachel Barnes is the UK editor of Campaign.