WPP global chief creative officer John O’Keeffe is leaving the company after 12 years and it is unclear whether he will be replaced.
In an internal memo sent to WPP agency leaders this morning announcing O’Keeffe’s departure, chief executive Mark Read confirmed that under his strategy for strengthening WPP’s agency brands and increasing investment in creative talent, more responsibility for creative standards has been handed to the agencies themselves.
WPP's agency brands include Wunderman Thompson, VMLY&R, Ogilvy and Grey.
When O’Keeffe took on the role in 2008, the job was considered by many observers to be a highly political post without any real responsibility, requiring diplomacy and a thick skin more than creative muscle.
O’Keeffe – a straight-talking and highly respected creative at the height of his career – was a surprising choice. But during O’Keeffe’s time at WPP, the company has won the Cannes Lions Holding Company of the Year award seven times and the Effies eight times.
He was also one of the driving forces behind initiatives such as WPP’s involvement in the United Nations’ Common Ground programme to help deliver its Sustainable Development Goals.
Read described O’Keeffe as "a passionate advocate for creative agency brands" and "a great champion of creative talent within our agencies and in the wider world".
O'Keeffe started his career at Saatchi & Saatchi in 1984 and in 1990 he joined Bartle Bogle Hegarty, where he produced award-winning work for Audi, One2One and Levi's. He was promoted to executive creative director in 2000, taking on day-to-day creative leadership of the London office from Sir John Hegarty.
WPP's most high-profile worldwide creative director was Neil French, who retired in October 2005. His role was taken up by Robyn Putter in March 2006.