What trends in the industry stand out for you right now?
Everything Lionel Messi is doing is fucking magic.
He turned down $1.6 billion tax free from the Saudis to go to play in the MLS and what people don’t realize is he gets a part of the team, he gets a portion of Apple TV sales, he gets a portion of the MLS league sales, because everywhere he goes, he gets a portion of Adidas. So his deal is going to end up being worth way more. It all started with Michael Jordan and getting equity there [as part of his deal with Nike]. But David Beckham was a real genius when he came to the MLS. Part of his feeling is ‘I’ll take a lower salary, but I want to be able to buy a franchise. I want to be able to buy an expansion franchise down the road for $25 million.’ That franchise is Inter Miami. That franchise today is worth $600 million. Now Messi is a part of that franchise. He got a piece of it. So that to me is the fucking coolest thing I’ve seen.
Everything he does gets eyeballs. He steps on the field, he’s signing autographs, he’s at a restaurant, it’s all content. But that to me is interesting—athletes being content creators and we’re going to see more and more of it. So I feel like that’s where the future’s going and how do we collaborate more with that? So to me, Messi is the story right now.
Also, the future is very much female. I think about three of the biggest things this summer: Taylor Swift, Beyoncé and Barbie, all created by women. With Barbie, Margot Robbie bought the property and attached Greta Gerwig to it and it created a billion-dollar movie, if not multiple billions. And I think it’s all based in authenticity, empowerment, and storytelling. If you just watch America Ferrera’s monologue in Barbie, it’s incredibly moving.
I’m not necessarily looking at ads, I’m looking at what’s happening in culture that is just blowing my mind.
What are the challenges in your role at WPP?
We want to be the most creative company in the world. That’s the goal. That’s what [WPP CEO] Mark [Read] has been saying; it's our goal first and foremost. You have to make sure you’re providing the best service to your clients, the clients you have, and the marketing and the comms they need. Are we the best at it? I think we are, but how do you keep that going?
You never take your foot off the gas when it comes to that. You have to be the master of that before you can delve into other things like music and fashion and deep entertainment. I think music, fashion, design, and entertainment [worlds] are coming for us. In some ways you have to really start playing and talking to different types of creators, whether they’re the music people that we are doing with Coke Studio getting in touch with the Marlon Wayans and Kevin Harts of the world that are doing amazing things.
Figuring out how to be funny again in advertising is going to be key. There’s a lot of data that shows people engage with brands that are using humor more than they engage with brands that are not. Yet we still are so shy about going deep into humor. So I do think the next five years hopefully we'll see more and more brands want to use humor. I know I’m going to be pushing that. I do think it’s a way to connect and engage with consumers and to drive more sales.
I want to start talking to people like Marlon and Kevin Hart and others who are really the tastemakers when it comes to connecting with consumers through comedy. There's always going to be more and more challenges. The budgets are always getting a little bit smaller and the clients are always getting a little bit squeezed.
What are your feelings about AI?
AI ends up being a really fantastic tool for our creative people that we will be able to try out things faster and get some insights faster and some thought starters faster. We shouldn't use it to turn that into the work. It should really be how we experiment and fail and we've removed the failure and experimentation out of the business a bit because of time and money. AI has really helped the agencies that are embracing it in a way to help explore and experiment.
Media has been using AI for a long, long time and it's going to continue to get even better and better at doing some of those kinds of tests. But for ideation, for creative people, I think it's going to be an invaluable tool just to play with.
Are you using AI in your day-to-day?
Sometimes. I'm not a designer, so I'm not using it the way they do, but I am using it to get smarter on stuff because Bing’s search engine is really good when it comes to AI. So I use it a lot when it comes to that. I'm not using it to come up with giant creative ideas, but I might use it to learn something that helps me get to a giant creative idea. But I bet others are too. So I do think it's inevitable and it's getting better and better, but I think it's going to put creative people at the top. The premium on great creative people is going to get even higher.