Maurice Lévy, John Wren, Sir Martin Sorrell and Michael Roth are perhaps the four most powerful people in the advertising industry. And the quartet symbolizes why diversity will never happen while they remain in power.
In 1972, while running the computer system of a small French advertising agency named Publicis, Lévy heroically rescued the firm’s files from a fire. The important thing to note is that Lévy toiled as an agency IT guy at a time when IT guys were really unimportant.
Wren worked as a management consultant at Arthur Andersen and a controller for the conglomerate Norton Simon before joining DDB Needham Worldwide as an executive vice president in 1986. He never climbed his way to the top via the mailroom or agency bullpen—he entered the ad game as a C-suite officer.
In 1975, Sorrell joined Saatchi & Saatchi as group finance director, helping to execute agency acquisitions for the brothers. In 1985, he privately invested in Wire and Plastic Products—now simply known as WPP—before coming on board full-time as Chief Executive in 1986. With WPP, Sorrell proceeded to build his advertising empire via hostile takeovers and other financial schemes.
Prior to assuming the role of Chairman and CEO of Interpublic in 2005, Roth was a member on the company’s Board of Directors. Prior to that, he served as Chairman and CEO of The MONY Group Inc. The man is a certified public accountant and insurance salesman.
So what does this have to do with the dearth of diversity on Madison Avenue?
Minorities are led to believe that landing a job in advertising requires special recruiting, special schooling, special programs and special training. Meanwhile, Messrs. Lévy, Wren, Sorrell and Roth demonstrate that any White man with money and connections can rise to the top—with virtually no prior industry experience.