A view from the top
A view from John O'Keeffe

A view from the top

I'm writing this as I prepare to head off to WPP's annual strategy conference in Beijing, where the focus will be on fast-growth markets and...

My focus, however, will remain slightly simpler – and, in fact, where it has been since I took up my post five years ago: improving an already impressive creative product and altering a few fairly tired, but nonetheless stubborn, views about WPP. I always felt our agencies were better than the commentariat would sometimes have you believe, and it has been gratifying to have that conviction confirmed at Cannes in recent years (scores up more than 100 per cent since 2008).

It’s also very good, but unsurprising (to me, anyway), to see the direct correlation between creativity and effectiveness. WPP is now number one at Cannes but, perhaps more importantly, number one in the Effie Index too. Unlike chickens and eggs, it is fairly evident which comes first in our industry, but it is equally clear what the point of all that creative energy is.

Here endeth today’s lesson.

And now for tomorrow’s…

I’ve been busy – with the redoubtable Tim Lindsay and Amanda Moorby – cementing our new partnership with D&AD. For those who missed it, WPP is supporting D&AD’s work to open up opportunities for graduates.

Among other things, we’re setting a student brief for this year’s New Blood Awards, backing the New Blood Academy (which aims to bridge the gap between industry and education) and providing a number of paid three-month internships at our agencies.

No organisation has higher creative standards than D&AD, and what it does in the field of student education – and, indeed, the annual student show – remains a benchmark for our industry. I’m so pleased we could help out. I look forward to the results of our first global student brief on, appropriately enough, global warming.

A small tip to those taking part: one of the more dispiriting trends in marketing over recent years, to my mind, has been the self-satisfied phrase "we raised awareness of…" accompanying this or that event or stunt, often for a huge telecoms company or financial institution. Raising awareness in the area of preventative healthcare or local crime is entirely laudable; in hard-nosed business environments, not so much. I’m not interested in people knowing I have something to sell. I’m interested in them buying it. In the context of this brief, that means the winner will be the person whose idea is most likely to stop the earth’s temperature rising. No pressure.

In other news: pitches for clients large and small abound. There seems at last to be a widespread recognition that merely being on social media is not nearly as good as being on social media with a really good idea. My own Tweeting – mostly about Arsenal – is up to two a month and (possibly, post-Özil) rising. My follower count is now well into double figures (11).

Flicking through the trade press, I notice that our two main competitors have recently become our one main competitor. This may or may not get mentioned in the week ahead. We’ll see. But, even if it does, in response I’m sure our people will just continue to do what they’ve been doing so well for so long. That would be my simple plan, anyway. And simple plans are usually the best.

John O’Keeffe is the worldwide creative director at WPP

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