After last week's promotion of four white men to its leadership board, WPP's media buying giant GroupM has addressed questions about its commitment to diversity in the C-suite.
At the head of the world's largest media-buying agency with 35,000 staff across agencies like Mindshare, MediaCom, Wavemaker, Essence and Xaxis, is newly installed GroupM chief executive Christian Juhl. He made a bold commitment to the recruitment of diverse talent at the WPP wing during an interview with The Drum in October.
He said: “We need to look at a wide variety of applicants. At Essence we were hiring people right out of high school and had a lot of really good success with that. Finding folks that grew up natively in the environments which we're now serving. People who represent the communities of which we're serving.”
However, his global leadership team was bolstered on Friday with a quartet of men: Mark Patterson, chief operating officer; Andrew Shebbeare, chief exec of 2Sixty and interim chief technology officer of GroupM; Colin Barlow, global president of GroupM Services; and Brian Gleason, chief commercial officer.
The appointments raised questions about whether the group was fulfilling its promises on diversity.
Taking to LinkedIn to comment on The Drum's story, Simon Fenwick, the executive vice president, talent, equity and inclusion at 4A's said: "Really, all white men... hmm no diversity here."
Meanwhile, Tom Denford, chief executive at ID Comms and founder of The Global Media Council also used the social network to say: "Using black and white photos doesn't actually qualify as diversity..."
Another reader responded: “An org that large and they couldn’t find a single talented woman? How odd...”
However, a GroupM spokesperson later noted that it has three women on the 12-strong leadership team, two of whom were appointed to the board after Juhl replaced Kelly Clark in August. They include: Elizabeth McCune, chief growth officer; Jennifer Remling, chief people officer; and Kyoko Matsushita, global chief executive of Essence (promoted three months ago).
"GroupM is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion in everything we do, including the way we recruit, develop and promote our people," the spokesperson said.
"The fact is that two of the three brand new appointments to the global leadership team are women, and one is a person of color – Jennifer Remling, chief people officer, Kyoko Matsushita, chief executive of Essence and Andrew Shebbeare, acting chief technology officer. The other men in our announcement on Friday were already on the global leadership team and are moving into evolved roles.
"Underscoring our commitment to creating workplaces that are diverse and inclusive, Christian Juhl’ very first appointment was Jennifer Remling, and among her top responsibilities is furthering our progress around DEI, working closely with WPP’s newly appointed chief people officer, Jacqui Canney, in this shared ambition."
Last month, newly installed Juhl credited the transformative impact of Remling in The Drum interview.
He said: "One of the first hires I made at GroupM was Jennifer Remling because she really did a good job of building out our diversity and inclusion at Essence, and I think that's something that's going to be really important to continue with at GroupM.”
He added: “We need to be the employment brand of choice in an advertising career. Once we bring you in the door we need to make sure this is a place where you love working, it provides you opportunity to not only learn but to grow your career, to get rapid advancement. We're pretty aware of what today's workforce needs. And we've come a long way.”
It comes as clients increasingly demand that the agencies on their rosters are diverse. Diageo India's chief marketing officer of Diageo Julie Bramham said: "I feel like we're spending millions and millions of dollars around the world on advertising, so we feel like we can make a difference by taking a stand on this."
Diageo has in the past asked its global ad agencies to share their diversity statistics.
Meanwhile, Unilever is offering its marketers and agency partners the chance to undergo DNA profiling and get a better understanding of their own diversity