For anyone unfamiliar with WPP it may come as a surprise that the world’s largest advertising firm started off as Wire and Plastics Products plc, a British company selling wire shopping baskets. Looking for a corporate “shell” in which to grow the business, Martin, formerly finance director at Saatchi & Saatchi, bought a 30% stake in the company in 1985.
He surprised both the communications and business world with a string of major acquisitions, taking over some of the oldest and most prolific advertising companies in the world. By 2013, WPP was employing 162,000 people worldwide and had revenues in excess of £7.5 billion. Martin himself is now thought to have a net worth of £115 million and is the longest-standing FTSE 100 CEO.
“My dad said “find a job you enjoy doing” and I think that’s a critical component. It’s a terrible phrase but “a bad decision on Monday is better than a good decision on Friday”, meaning you should just get on with it and I think that’s really important. It means if someone phones you, phone them back, if someone writes you a note, answer them as quick as you can because they have taken the trouble to write it, don’t ignore them. Those are the sort of things that I think are important”.
The son of two immigrants, his mother was from Belgium and his father was from Calcutta, David Abraham grew up in rural Lincolnshire and Essex and went on to study History at Magdalen College, Oxford. Amazingly, David’s application to study television at postgraduate level was turned down by Middlesex Polytechnic and he started a career in advertising after a friend suggested the industry might also provide him with the opportunity to be involved in creative work.
David co-founded the groundbreaking advertising agency, St. Luke’s, which continues to work with major clients today. He moved out of advertising in 2001, becoming General Manager for Discovery in Europe and later joined UKTV as its Chief Executive. He is well known for having initiated the successful rebranding of the UKTV channels that saw the creation of the Dave, Alibi and Yesterday TV brands. David describes his career as having taken place in a series of roughly five to seven year periods, giving him time to learn and make a positive impact in each role. His advice is to stay in a role for long enough to have made a measurable achievement before moving onto the next challenge. More…