On October 3rd, WPP opened its new French campus in Levallois-Perret, near Paris, where the 18 agencies of the group are located. Mark Read, CEO of WPP Group, was in Paris for the official opening. He talked to Strategies magazine about his plans for the global communication group, as well as his vision on current tech topics, like AI and metaverse. 

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You've just opened the new WPP campus in France. What are your plans for the French market? Why have you chosen this kind of campus as a model worldwide? 

Mark Read : We've gathered on this campus 2,000 people from 18 agencies. We also have more than 10,000 bees on the roof (laughs). Jokes aside, the aim with this campus is that when a client stands outside the building and looks up, he realizes the wealth of talents that we have within our group. You know, successful marketing in 2023 requires everybody to work together: we can no longer work in silos. This also makes things easier to win major new clients. It's much easier now than when our 20 French agencies were scattered in so many offices across Paris. Here, at the Paris WPP Campus, the offices are more vibrant. We designed the building with a coworking spirit. And I'm sure that employees will understand the benefits of this coworking atmosphere. Lastly, this kind of campus send a message to young talents that will soon graduate from high school or university. I want them to think that they can start their careers here and see at a glance all the advancement opportunities we offer. 

Today, WPP has 115,000 employees worldwide. 60,000 of them are working in one of our 37 campuses. They are the physical manifestation of our strategy. We combine both brand identity and the ability of brands to collaborate. When a client wants our expertise on brand, reputation, media planning, AI, e-commerce, or influence marketing, all these expertise are available in one place. 

Last January, WPP forecasted an organic growth of 3% to 5% for the fiscal year. In August, the forecasts were reduced to +1.5% to +3%. The decrease in tech investments impacted your revenues in North America during the second quarter. Is it the only reason? 

We experienced strong growth with these players: 20% of our business comes from tech companies. They are reducing their budgets, but this is partly due to their significant growth over the past two years. The AI revolution may also explain this situation because it leads them to reconsider their strategic priorities. By what we saw during the second quarter, we are not alone... The pullback of tech companies had consequences on the entire industry. This leads us to take a little bit more cautious approach to the rest of the year. 

Is AI friend or foe to the advertising industry? 

However, we need to embrace AI. Like in any disruption, some jobs will be disrupted, but we need to look at new jobs AI will create. Our best and brightest creatives are already turning to AI. They use it to bring their ideas to life more quickly, to assist them in their brainstorming sessions. I believe artificial intelligence provides solutions to this current conundrum: on one hand, our clients increasingly need content on platforms like Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Amazon, and on the other hand, production costs are skyrocketing. With AI, we can produce high-quality content. It's a significant production opportunity for us. 

Moreover, I believe that new jobs will be created. If you look carefully at the WPP group, you'll find jobs that didn't exist 20 or even 10 years ago, such as search engine managers, programmatic media managers... It is the same in influence marketing. If we reduce the time needed for some jobs, we create more activity for others. I understand the concerns regarding job losses, but you know, we've gone through many waves of innovation in the last 150 years… 

How do you work with AI at WPP? 

We have already used it in many projects, such as in our campaign for La Laitière (Nestlé). Ogilvy agency has done a very interesting job in France, as well as AKQA. AI is already fully integrated into our creative work. We also use it in many programs to manage our business, and we create platforms to put AI tools in the hands of creatives. In the longer term, we're considering the transformative impact of AI on our business, how it can reinvent the way we work. 

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