Jane Austin: why WPP boss Sir Martin thinks there should be a Grand Prix for data

Unknown-4Cannes 2014: What do you buy the man who has bought everything? If you’re looking for a present for Sir Martin Sorrell (left) this Christmas, anything related to American political drama House of Cards will probably be welcome – he’s a massive fan apparently and watched two series of the show in two weekends.

However, Sir Martin had something much more important than his House of Cards fixation to talk about this morning (Tuesday) at Wunderman’s catch up interview with the WPP boss – namely the state of the industry.

Sir Martin told the assembled guests that one of the problems with the Cannes Lions is that creativity is being defined “very narrowly” and that there needed to be more focus on data. However, he noted that Terry Savage, the Cannes festival chairman, was recognising the importance of data visualization and Sir Martin predicted an award in this area was on the horizon at Cannes. He said that creativity can be applied to everything and said that even chief financial officers can be creative. This comment raised a laugh as he noted that in the case of “some in companies not too far away from here” CFOs had been a bit too creative.

He said he didn’t think Cannes had “shifted far enough’ and was still rooted in the past, though praised the fact that it had become much more diverse. He added that the ad industry has some way to go in terms of diversity too, quoting the depressing statistic that just four per cent of women are in top creative positions. ”That’s an appalling lack of diversity… and should be remedied quickly,” he said.

Sir Martin also spoke about his ‘frenemies’ over at Google, restating that Google, WPP’s biggest media partner, had become much friendlier of late. “They are friendlier today than when that word was first coined,” he said. Though the credit for inventing the word ‘frenemy’ must go to a woman, apparently.

“I coined ‘horizonatilty’ but ‘frenemy’ was a woman who came to us from Harvard Business School,” Sir Martin explained. “She said to me ‘Google is really a frenemy’…I gave her credit for it but none of the press would.”

She spelt it wrong though. It should be spelt ‘frienemy’, according to Sir Martin.

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About Jane Austin

Jane Austin is the founder and owner of PR agency Persuasion Communications.