WPP CEO Martin Sorrell Targeted In An 'Open Letter' From One Of His Own Creative Directors

Mark SIlberMark Silber of Joule

Mark Silber, the executive creative director of WPP-owned mobile ad agency Joule, has criticised his boss — WPP CEO Martin Sorrell — in an “open letter” for what Silber says is Sorrell’s excessive focus on media and metrics over creativity.

The letter — sent exclusively to Business Insider — was written in a spirit of debate and fun, as a reaction to a speech Sorrell gave in London in which he said that, in advertising today, the medium has become more important than the message. The Drum quoted Sorrell as saying:

… [It’s] the medium, or media, that determines the nature of the creative content, a fact which “doesn’t go down well” in established ad agencies.

“The days in which creatives ruled have gone and media departments are now much more front and centre. It’s much more balanced now, which is for the best. The Don Drapers of the world did rule, but no longer.

WPP CEO Martin SorrellWPP CEO Martin Sorrell

Silber told us, “I read Sir Martin’s comments and thought a creative person’s perspective might make an interesting sidebar. I’m in no way contradicting him. What I’m saying is, we know this is true. Just please don’t say it. We creative people have fragile egos. At least, I do.”

It is extremely unusual for someone of Silber’s rank to criticise his boss publicly, even in jest. And Sorrell, famously, has a bit of temper, and doesn’t have much patience for critics whom he believes are wrong on the facts. Is Silber worried he might feel Sorrell’s wrath? “No. I understand he has an excellent sense of humour and will appreciate the tongue-in-cheek manner in which this was written.

Having said that, Silber also admitted he had not spoken to Sorrell about the matter personally.

The 318-word dispatch laments the diminishing clout of creative people in advertising agencies, in favour of the rise of account managers and media planners and buyers. Silber wrote:

Is a world run by media people truly a world in which you want to live? With spreadsheets and retargeting strategies and trading desks and people who know what GRP stands for? Although on the plus side I suppose there’d be more parties.

… And now you want to take us down another peg? Really, our standard operating mode – deep self-loathing – wasn’t sufficient?

Read Silber’s letter to Martin Sorrell in full here.

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