EDITORIAL: IPG can learn from Paster's work at WPP

For the past nine months, since vacating the chairman and CEO position at Hill & Knowlton, Howard Paster has been scrutinizing WPP's PR agencies, helping them work with (and make sense to) other group agencies, and wielding the power of a holding-company board member with the empathy of a former operating-company CEO.

For the past nine months, since vacating the chairman and CEO position at Hill & Knowlton, Howard Paster has been scrutinizing WPP's PR agencies, helping them work with (and make sense to) other group agencies, and wielding the power of a holding-company board member with the empathy of a former operating-company CEO.

For several quarters in a row, Martin Sorrell, WPP's CEO, has pointed to PR and public affairs as a key reason for revenue decline. Whatever the factors are (for starters, is this a WPP problem or a category problem?), a number of PR CEOs and their hundreds of staffers are frequently confronted by their leader being quoted in the business and trade press pointing out the softness of their sector. Paster says his responsibilities go "up and down" - i.e., that his job is as much to help the PR agencies understand Sorrell as it is for Sorrell to understand the PR agencies. "PR and public affairs businesses now have an advocate at WPP," he says. This is something that cannot be so easily said for IPG, whose latest PR reshuffle hasn't put anyone in a strong oversight role. While Weber Shandwick CEO Harris Diamond now has Golin/Harris and MWW reporting to him, he is still running his own PR giant. Clearly, IPG's new CEO David Bell rates Diamond; it's to be hoped that he also rates PR enough to eventually create a role to help PR become more homogenized - no, Pasterized - within the group. Everyone needs someone like Howard.

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