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Why Karen Blackett abandoned a plan to drop job titles at ad agency MediaCom

Lara O'Reilly
Executive Producer

Karen Blackett OBE is one of the world’s most powerful advertising executives.

Having joined the industry in a media planning role in the early ‘90s, Blackett worked her way up to director-level and CEO positions. She now serves as country manager of the world’s biggest ad group, WPP, and chairwoman at MediaCom, the UK’s largest media agency.

But when Blackett became UK chief executive of MediaCom in 2011, she considered the idea of getting rid of job titles altogether.

“I was looking at the John Lewis model of everyone being a partner,” Blackett told the Global Change Agents with Lianna Brinded show.

Ultimately, given the logistical and legal challenges that would have accompanied the process of eradicating job titles, Blackett abandoned the idea.

“Whereas I think internally it would have helped, externally clients sometimes want to make sure that they’re speaking to the boss,” Blackett said.

“Now for me, that doesn’t necessarily mean a job title,” Blackett said. “For me it means the person that can make things happen is the leader or the boss and a job title shouldn’t have to add credibility to that — but it’s important externally.”

Ad agencies often spend too much time “debating hierarchy,” Blackett said.

“Part of me has some regret,” about not going through with the plan, Blackett said. “But actually it’s about how does it play for a client journey, what’s best for a client and titles tend to work for a client as well as making sure they’ve got the right talent.”

Global Change Agents with Lianna Brinded explores the stories of some of the most inspirational women across business, tech, and academia. Catch up on all the latest episodes here.