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News Analysis 7 Sep 2020 - 4 min read

WPP cops heat on ending jobs freeze, reverses salary cuts as CEO Jens Monsees continues investment in martech, CX

By Josh McDonnell - Senior Writer

WPP AUNZ CEO Jen Monsees says the business has dropped the company-wide hiring freeze for “select roles and departments” and rejects claims the business was using job ads across LinkedIn and other platforms to generate a future talent pool while not hiring externally for the advertised roles. Monsees tells Mi3 “exemptions” have been made for external hires in growth areas such as digital, technology and CX.

What you need to know:
  • WPP AUNZ CEO Jens Monsees has ended the group’s external hiring freeze for “select roles and departments”.
  • The holding group’s local boss also said full salaries had returned as the business pushes ahead with its digital transformation strategy.
  • Global CEO Mark Read announced the hiring freeze at the end of March, as the group reviewed freelance budgets, discretionary costs and pay rises.
  • But industry insiders have told Mi3  about 30 WPP jobs that have been posted across LinkedIn and other job seeker platforms are not likely to be filled by external candidates at present.
  • People familiar with the job ads say it's an exercise in “stockpiling” external applicants who could be tapped at a later date.
  • Monsees brushed-off the suggestions, adding the business is “fortunate” to be able to hire for digitally-led roles including digital executive positions, social media leads and head of engagement roles.
  • He says the business is “divesting” in traditional media and creative roles where necessary and adding talent in technology-led fields.
  • Still, jobs such as media managers, copywriters and account director jobs are being posted alongside digital roles.


UPDATE: GroupM has also fired back at the claims regarding falsified job ad postings, with a spokesperson of WPP's media arm telling Mi3 the following:

"We are currently recruiting to fill a number of open roles across GroupM agencies and our fast growing Finecast business and anticipate most will be filled externally. We currently have more roles available than we have advertised on LinkedIn and are actively seeking talented individuals to join Mindshare, MediaCom, Wavemaker and Essence to continue to drive growth for our clients. Any advertised roles from GroupM at any time are genuine opportunities and we’re fortunate to be able to invest in the future in an environment when many companies are not in a position to make new hires.”


Hiring freeze lifted

Two weeks after reversing the company-wide pay cuts that were introduced in March, WPP AUNZ CEO Jens Monsees has confirmed a partial lift of the group’s staff hiring freeze.

Implemented globally by WPP CEO Mark Read, the hiring freeze started at the end of March. Now Monsees says the local business is planning to recruit new digital, customer experience (CX) and technology-driven positions as it pushes ahead with its transformation strategy to a creative technology company in Australia, a local twist on WPP's global positioning as a creative transformation group.

“Obviously for that we need some tech savvy, digitally-led and very creative people to follow, implement and grow with that strategy, which is why we are allowing some areas of the business to hire in those roles,” Monsees told Mi3.

About 30 jobs are being advertised on LinkedIn and other jobseeker platforms and are spread across various WPP media, creative and digital agencies.

However, industry insiders claimed to Mi3  that WPP may not hire externally for the roles and was using the ads to help develop a “talent pool” database.

“The hiring freeze is still in effect, that’s not going to change for a while, so these roles may be advertised but the business has no plans to actually appoint anyone outside the business," said . one industry executive familiar with the job ads.

Rival holding groups including Publicis are maintaining hiring freezes, with few roles being advertised. In July, Publicis locally entered stage four of its COVID action plan, with with more than 30 roles made redundant.

Monsees said the industry claims were wrong, saying WPP had made it clear its investment in digital growth areas would be ongoing while it “divested” in traditional areas of the business.

“We are by far the biggest player in media and marketing, and obviously we have a very good view on the market which is giving us greater scope on how we invest in the future of our business and people,” Monsees says.

“Every crisis has a level of opportunity and as I stated, we are investing in certain areas. We are going not after traditional roles but more after the digital, tech and creative roles.

“We will justify these hires by striking the right balance between investment and divestment.”

Most of the roles being advertised align to Monsees’ definition of growth categories, including digital executive, head of engagement, social leads and programmatic directors. However, “traditional” positions are also being advertised, including copywriters, art directors, operations managers, payroll officers and investment directors.

WPP’s media investment arm GroupM is hiring the most aggressively, with roles across the media agencies Mindshare, Wavemaker and MediaCom, plus its specialist TV agency Finecast.

You can read part two of Mi3's interview with Monsees here, where the WPP boss discusses internal dissent rumblings, JobKeeper -fuelled profits, de-duplication and its tech centre of excellence.

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Josh McDonnell

Senior Writer

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