Boss of the world’s biggest media company, WPP’s CEO Mark Read has described the globe’s current COVID-19 pandemic as “medieval” and something we haven’t seen for “seven or eight centuries”.
The WPP supremo was speaking from home on a live chat with UK digital news platform Tortoise. You can check out the full hour-long interview below.
Read said: “This is like the world’s biggest experiment. It’s like ‘Through the Keyhole.’ It’s the biggest disruption in the way we work, live and communicate. The world will come out of this changed.”
He adds that the virus had severely dented WPP’s operations in Italy and China in a “tsunami of changes”.
“This is both a health crisis and a financial crisis,” Read said. “We have to protect not only people’s lives but their jobs… This is medieval isn’t it? It’s like the plague. You can see the fear. We haven’t seen anything like this for seven or eight centuries.
“It brings home why people say don’t leverage your business. It is going to change how people think about risk,” he added.
Read said his biggest concern was the welfare of WPP’s 130,000 global employees. He said he was “drinking from a firehose of things to do and decisions to make” but was focused on “people first, customers second and at the same time”.
According to Read some 93 per cent of WPP staff are now working from home and it had become a big issue of trust for some of the agency’s “older bosses” who didn’t trust staff to be productive.
“Now those older bosses are learning that you can be very effective when you work from home,” he said.
And the future? “Consumers will be in different groups,” Read said. “Some will want to have a massive celebration. For others, their lives will be impacted and they will have lost loves ones, lost their jobs. They’ll feel very differently about many things.”
But, he hopes that “companies will try and do the right thing” after all they “play a valuable role in society by providing people with jobs and income”.
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