Jeremy Lee: Adland's fat cats are overfed but deserve to get some cream

By Jeremy Lee, campaignlive.co.uk, Thursday, 03 November 2011 08:00AM

Surely it can only have been the most loyal WPP lickspittles who failed to suppress a snigger when the national press turned its attack dogs on to Sir Martin Sorrell and his rather ill-advised comments last week that his £1 million basic salary was "very low".

Jeremy Lee

Jeremy Lee

But identifying him as a prime example of corporate fat-cattery was not entirely fair. Whatever you think of Sorrell and the not entirely benign but amusingly incongruous large shadow he casts over the UK media scene, he has built a successful and growing business that delivers returns to shareholders.

Equally, given the levels of corporate remuneration elsewhere at the upper echelons in the media industry, the figure, in truth, isn't that eye-watering. For example, the Daily Mail, whose editor-in-chief, Paul Dacre, fingered Sorrell for apparently "moaning" about his salary, failed to mention that he himself received £2.8 million in remuneration last year.

Nonetheless, given that the advertising industry as a whole is entering a particularly challenging year, where the spectre of redundancies appears all too real for both media owners and agencies, the issue of executive remuneration is particularly sensitive and Sorrell's total £4.2 million package is in danger of looking out of touch with the times.

And so to Stevie Spring, who has left Future Publishing to spend more time with Pudsey Bear (see Lifeline). In fact, Future described her departure in rather less pleasant terms - ones that are usually more familiar to the poor office galley slaves rather than the key-holders to the executive washroom.

In a statement announcing that she had been replaced as chief executive by Mark Wood, who she originally employed and once described as "a marvellous man who makes my life much more pleasant", the restructure was billed as "eliminating an entire tier of corporate overhead".

Whatever you think of her occasionally OTT style, Spring has had an illustrious career in advertising and media, and she - much like the 10 per cent of Future's staff who got the chop earlier this year - deserves rather better than this.

While some of those at St Paul's tent city will no doubt cheer that the recession has finally claimed a corporate scalp that all too often manage to deflect the axe, Spring should also not be seen as the scapegoat for the company's ill- advised foreign adventures. Again, timing worked against her and Future's performance looked all the more stark given Bauer Comsumer Media's strong financial results that saw a £230 million dividend paid to the Bauer family.

Quite whether Spring still feels the same about Wood as previously is up for question, but there can be little doubt that - chairmanship of Children in Need notwithstanding - her irrepressible energy and addiction to hard graft means she won't be away from the industry for long.

jeremy.lee@haymarket.com

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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