It’s been more than four months since WPP, the largest advertising agency holding company in the world, received a formal public apology from someone who wronged it, and that’s saying something: Since November of 2009, WPP has turned its “Parent Company” category of press releases into a virtual stage for publicly shaming those who have crossed WPP and its CEO, Martin Sorrell.In fact, the three-and-a-half-year period has seen formal apologies to WPP make up more than 37 per cent of all postings in the Parent Company category.
The list includes:
- David Blyth — Founder of The Great Game and former managing director of Brand Union (South Africa).
- Jeremy Clark — Director at Cohn & Wolfe.
- Sarah Davies, Sian Davies & Crawford Hollingworth — Founders of The Behavioural Architects.
- Rebecca Galbraith — Director of brand communications Quintiles and former director at Cohn & Wolfe.
- David Golding — Founding partner Adam & Eve and former planning director RKCR.
- Anthony Heraghty — Group general manager at Pacific Brands and former managing director at Fosters Group, George Patterson Y&R and McCann Erickson Brisbane.
- Michelle Hutton — CEO Edelman (Australia) & former CEO Hill & Knowlton
- Crispin Jameson — CEO of Everystone and chief strategy officer of The Brand Union.
- Anna MacIntosh — PR Director Momentum Worldwide & former director of consumer practice at Hill & Knowlton.
- MarketShare EMEA Partners Limited
- James McGrath — Creative chairman at Clemenger BBDO.
- Fiona McMillan — Director global pipeline communications at GSK, former head of UK brand & corporate communications at Bristol-Myers Squibb and director of healthcare team at Cohn & Wolfe.
- James Murphy — Managing partner Adam & Eve and former CEO RKCR/Y&R.
- The Oystercatchers LLP
- Richard Pinder — COO Publicis Worldwide.
- Ben Priest — Creative founding partner Adam & Eve and former creative director at RKCR.
- Laurence Shorter — Founder The Great Game.
- Steve Simpson — Former CEO of GroupM Business Sciences.
- Patrick Sutton — Founder The Great Game.
Almost every single one of these apologies has the same storyline: a former employee of WPP or its subsidiary leaves a WPP agency and Sorrell accuses and/or sues the former employee for poaching WPP clients.
This practice is nothing unique to WPP, although Sorrell’s willingness to go after former employees is legendary and something no other agency comes close to doing.
There is one exception to the pattern: Richard Pinder.
Pinder, the COO of rival Publicis, gave an interview in 2010 in which he criticised Sorrell. Pinder then issued an apology, which included a published editorial in The Economic Times and departed Publicis less than a year later.
So Martin—who’s next?
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