Noel D'souza
Sep 17, 2023

We are not using AI to cut costs: Mark Read

WPP's CEO, Mark Read and global chief creative officer, Rob Reilly, decoded India's potential, recent acquisitions, AI's influence, and the role of creativity in shaping the future of advertising.

Mark Read (left) and Rob Reilly.
Mark Read (left) and Rob Reilly.

Mark Read, chief executive officer, WPP, and Rob Reilly, global chief creative officer, WPP, are currently in India for a global board meet.


During this visit, we caught up with the duo to understand India's burgeoning significance as both a dynamic market and a hub for creative innovation.


The duo acknowledged India's ascent as the fifth-largest market in regards to WPP agencies and its promising potential to rank even higher in the future.


With optimism for India's future, Read and Reilly communicated the pivotal role of creativity in driving business success, affirming the shared commitment to nurturing ideas that will shape India's trajectory on the global stage, leveraging AI and how to ace purpose-driven campaigns.


WPP's growth trajectory in India


In a conversation with Campaign India, Read expressed his belief in the country's potential for substantial development in the coming years. 


He highlighted that much of this growth would be organic, driven by the natural expansion of the market. Importantly, he anticipated growth across all sectors of WPP's business.


"While creativity remains a crucial factor, a significant portion of this growth will undoubtedly stem from the media industry, especially in technology-related areas where our presence in the Indian market is robust," he said.


Read outlined WPP's aspiration to achieve a well-balanced growth trajectory, with a slightly greater emphasis on international endeavours, given the immense potential India offers. Nevertheless, Read also anticipated robust growth in collaborations with Indian clients.


On acquisitions as growth strategy


Read admitted the pivotal role acquisitions have played in WPP's growth strategy. 


While WPP aims to complete two acquisitions a year, he expressed confidence in their existing portfolio. 


He stated, "Currently, we believe that we possess all the necessary assets within WPP to cater to our client's requirements for establishing brand connections with consumers, managing reputations, selling on Flipkart, and crafting campaigns on Jio."


However, Read also noted that they remained open to the possibility of acquiring additional talent and capabilities, offering a valuable edge in the ever-evolving advertising landscape.


On merging traditional and digital agencies


Read delved into the rationale behind merging traditional and digital agencies, emphasising its reflection of the dynamics of the modern world. 


While VMLY&R has been taking the plaudits at award shows for Maxx Flash's 'The Killer Pack', the perception of Wunderman Thompson is that it's not up there.


"Wunderman Thompson, on the other hand, had a different starting point. However, when we assess their work with Nestle, it's evident that their client work is exceptionally strong. In fact, under the current leadership, there's an untold story to be unveiled about Wunderman Thompson, and we find it to be an exciting narrative," he revealed.


Voicing out the silence on the AKQA and Grey merger


WPP announced the merger of Grey into AKQA in November 2020, but since then there's been silence. 


Read clarified that AKQA and Grey would be integrated in various ways, focusing on maintaining both brand identities. 


"This integration would be tailored to align with client needs and the nature of campaigns. This approach was consistently applied globally and in India", he said.


Read also highlighted AKQA's primarily international project-oriented work in the Indian market. However, he expressed anticipation of impressive work emerging from them in the future, both in international and domestic projects.


On the impact of AI


In an interview with Reuters last month, Read revealed that the company is making significant savings by using AI-generated ads


Read clarified that their goal was to harness AI's capabilities to enhance creative ideas, expedite their realisation at a lower cost, and produce work that deeply resonated with consumers. 


"We’re not using AI to cut costs. We’re using AI to to bring our ideas to life quickly, cheaply and make it more personalised. AI empowers us to achieve these goals more cost-effectively than ever before, benefiting both our clients and our agency. Based on my experience, clients tend to reinvest the savings they accrue into their marketing efforts. Currently, our top priority for IT investments revolves around AI. While we're not providing a specific investment figure for our AI initiatives, it forms the core of our future creative endeavours," shared Read. 


Reilly expressed his enthusiasm for AI's potential to reintroduce elements like time, resources, and the freedom to experiment. He envisioned designers using AI to explore and experiment with ideas rapidly. Writers could employ AI, like ChatGPT, to generate prompts and spark new thoughts and concepts.


"AI's most exciting potential lies in rekindling the capacity for experimentation and learning from failures, a fundamental aspect of creativity. I am particularly enthusiastic about creatives who truly understand and master AI, leveraging it as a tool, much like how digital photography and computers revolutionised their respective fields in the past. As we become adept at harnessing AI's potential, I believe we will excel in crafting work that truly resonates and captivates audiences," Reilly further elaborated. 


Reilly on his creative journey at WPP


Reilly shared his perspective on the creative journey over the last two years. He attributed the holding company's remarkable creative achievements to having a CEO who strongly believed in the power of creativity.


Speaking about his first visit to India, he said, "The consistently outstanding work produced in such a vibrant country is incredibly inspiring. I'm genuinely optimistic about the progress of our entire company, with a special emphasis on the achievements in India." 


On achieving effectiveness in campaigns


Reilly pointed to the work produced for the Times of India, addressing the issue of plastic usage and its impact on animals. He considered it one of the finest pieces of work, not just due to its impact but also because of the exceptional craftsmanship involved. 


He remarked, "The creative output from India consistently showcases large and daring ideas, complemented by impeccable filmmaking and photography craftsmanship. When I encountered that TOI piece, it left a lasting impression on me, serving as a powerful reminder of the remarkable creativity that exists."


The rulebook for purpose-driven campaigns


Reilly highlighted the current challenge is that everyone is engaging in purpose marketing. 


He cited Apple's recent Mother Nature film as an exemplary case of successfully combining purpose with skilful execution to create a meaningful impact.


"It's not just about having a disruptive and purposeful idea; it's also about delivering it in a way that stands out from the crowd. If it's too ordinary, it may go unnoticed. So, the key is to present a purposeful idea in a highly disruptive manner," summarised Reilly.

Campaign India

Related Articles

Just Published

2 hours ago

40 Under 40 2023: Ruchika Gupta, Beam Suntory

An ambassador of female leadership, Gupta is building a team of thought leaders at Beam Suntory and inspiring them to achieve their highest potential.

2 hours ago

Why does such a lack of transparency still exist in ...

Although many adtech players remain incentivised to keep the ecosystem opaque, new business models and auditing practices are challenging the status quo to demonstrate value for clients.

3 hours ago

Swatch switches media duties to Publicis from ...

Swatch is the second long-term client after Dyson to depart from GroupM to Publicis this year, following news of a bribery scandal in China in 2023.

3 hours ago

The Scott Calorie Absorber Pro converts a kitchen ...

The clever campaign reimagines the humble drying towel as a mighty health supplement in a bid to tackle Malaysia's growing obesity epidemic.