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WPP CEO Mark Read's comment stirs ageism debate

His statement on WPP's average age being less than 30 didn't sit well with people, and he later apologised on Twitter.

Mark Read, CEO, WPP, was recently asked by an analyst, as reported on Campaign UK, if his company has the right balance of people with skills in TV versus digital. Read replied, "We have a very broad range of skills, and if you look at our people – the average age of someone who works at WPP is less than 30. They don’t hark back to the 1980s, luckily.”

This response sparked a debate on social media around ageism, i.e., stereotyping or discriminating against people based on their age. George Tannebaum, former NCD and copy chief, Ogilvy, tweeted "Sage matters. Age doesn't."

Lakshmipathy Bhat, a marketing communication professional (former VP at FCB Ulka, and AVP, country head at Grey) wrote on LinkedIn that the general statement that those above 40 are dinosaurs and will not understand digital world’s requirements is plain wrong. Many others also voiced their disagreement with Read's response.

Read soon tweeted an apology on Twitter: "I was recently asked if our teams have the right balance of skills between TV and digital. I believe they do, but was wrong to use age to try to make a point. People over 40 can do great digital marketing just as people under 30 can make great TV ads."

"We're fortunate to have thousands of people at WPP who have decades of experience and expertise. They're extremely valuable to our business and the work we do for clients, and I'm sorry my reply suggested otherwise."

These are tough times. And, such statements can worry many who're not only dealing with the economic fallout of the Coronavirus pandemic, but also struggling to battle the wave of automation enveloping the workforce.