Five Questions With WPP's Robyn Putter

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Robyn Putter, a longtime player in South African advertising circles as well as within Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, is moving into a WPP Group role as worldwide creative chief -- the post formerly held by the notorious Neil French, who resigned last October amid controversial remarks about women. Mr. Putter's new role will be to provide creative directors in each WPP network with support, advice and wisdom, and to help them improve their creative reputation and win more awards. Mr. Putter, 55, recently spoke with Ad Age reporter Lisa Sanders.

Advertising Age: Tell me about yourself and your background.

Mr. Putter: Our agency became part of Ogilvy 20-odd years ago. I've been part of Ogilvy and its development for quite some time. I've been on Ogilvy's worldwide board for 15 years and am also on the executive committee. I also chair the worldwide creative council. Our agency in South Africa has been one of the most creative agencies in the Ogilvy network.

AA: What will you do in this new job?

Mr. Putter: It makes absolute sense that one of the world's largest creative companies should have creative people help guide it and give it a creative sense of itself. I want to represent the interests of the creative people within WPP. The last few years at Ogilvy, we've improved the network's creative performance. We've been rated as best-in-market in numerous places -- Mexico, Brazil, and in Asia Pacific. In the last, we dominate the market.

AA: WPP Group Chief Executive Martin Sorrell recently said he wants to improve the company's creative capabilities and reputation. That includes placing greater emphasis on awards. How will you do that?

Mr. Putter: To say that we're going to chase down awards is to minimize what we do. Awards are an important part of any agency's measurement. You need to measure yourself, and yes, that's part of the job. There are some major award shows -- American, British and Cannes -- that the world watches. But it is as important for us to be good in small markets as in big ones. Awards are by no means the whole point of the job.

AA: What else will you emphasize?

Mr. Putter: I see my job as being a leader of a creative union. So that creative people feel supported by the company and that their opinions and their work is valued. I'm a big believer in partnership between managing directors and creative directors, between regional directors and regional creative directors, and between CEOs and their creative partners. A lot of growth and energy can come out of a great partnership.

AA: Your predecessor had some controversial views on the role of women in advertising. What is your opinion on women and advertising?

Mr. Putter: I think Neil's answer to the question was inappropriate and I think you asking the question is equally inappropriate.

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