At the first session of Advertising Week Europe, Interpublic Group (IPG) chairman and chief executive Michael Roth discussed his company’s work on Wall Street’s ‘Fearless Girl’ statue and the ongoing effort to make his organisation more diverse.
To mark International Women’s Day, and in partnership with client State Street Global Advisors, IPG agency McCann NY introduced ‘The Fearless Girl’, a statue of a daring young girl, standing strong in front of the bull on Wall Street to show that companies with women in leadership perform better than those without. The concept was developed by two young women within the organisation.
Roth commented that this demonstrated the value of diversity in the talent pool, as it is not traditional advertising in the sense of a 30 second TV spot, but more social and experimental and has become a global phenomenon, Although the exhibit was intended to be short term, there was a petition to make it permanent.
“Girls today should look forward to being in these positions and not be intimidated by the bull of Wall Street,” he added. “Could I envisage being replaced by a woman? Sure.”
Roth said that he felt IPG’s biggest differentiating factor from other agency groups is its people. “Our business is based on people and talent,” he added, saying he wanted his company to be inclusive.
Having set a target of 40% females in leadership positions, he commented on the latest female appointment to the board: “We looked at a number of candidates and the best one happened to be female – ultimately that’s the best way to approach it.”
However, he conceded that, while the company was “doing a good job but not 100% there” on the female side, there’s a long way to go on the ethnic side but it has embarked on a major push, in order to be more representative of a diverse consumer base.
Free flow of talent
On the subject of travel bans, he said he was concerned for the free flow of talent, goods and services, also adding that the tax structure would need to change to look at a global view of taxation in order to be a global economy.
Following Trump’s inauguration, Roth commented that the outcome had demonstrated the importance of balance as a chief executive, with different regions of the company reacting very diversely. “I have to represent all of them, but that doesn’t mean I’m not prepared to take a stand,” he added.
“It’s a fine line every CEO has to walk but if you sit back and do nothing, employees start to think this is not an organisation they want to be involved with.”
The weekend’s revelations about Google also provided a hot topic, with the UK government calling on the company to be accountable for its conduct in providing brand safety. Roth commented on the importance of ensuring clients are getting what they are paying for with regards to environment and viewability.
He added that if Facebooks and Google do not make sure there is a filter in place to govern the quality of information being distributed, advertisers will stay away from those opportunities, citing the need to make sure what goes through the system is relevant and accurate.
Roth insisted that IPG has no plans to freeze ad spend with Google, but has spoken about concerns and has been told they will be addressed. He also reinforced that most dollars are spent by his company on search as opposed to display, where problems have been arising.
On the so-called duopoly of Google and Facebook, he said that the two media giants need competition. Following Snap’s recent IPO, Roth commented that the app is being “utilised tremendously” at the moment, but “needs to be more sophisticated on monetisation of its product”. It remains, however, a “very compelling product”, he added.