Martin – “I’m no plonker” – Sorrell sitting pretty as comScore and Rentrak merge

We noted yesterday that Sir Martin Sorrell had been quiet recently – for a few days anyway – suggesting that he might have taken a holiday. Silly us, he’s popped up at New York’s Advertising Week to, among other things, welcome the merger between audience measurement firms comScore and Rentrak.

WPP is a minority investor in both companies and will have a 16 per cent stake in the new $732m company, with an option to take this to 20 per cent.

ComScore is an internet traffic specialist while Rentrak’s set top box gathers TV viewing data, making it a rival to Nielsen. WPP tried and failed to challenge ratings giant Nielsen in the US with its Kantar research operation. It then decided to roll this business into a new partnership with Rentrak.

Sir-Martin-Sorrell-014Sorrell (left) has been banging on about the failings of online measurement for some time now – you can be deemed to view an ad as it’s loading on your screen, whether you’re looking at it or not – and a number of big clients share his concerns.

“Clients and media owners really want better measurement,” he says. “With the growth of out of home, with the growth of multi-screen viewing, with the changes of millennial and centennial media consumption habits, it was inevitable that we had to have a better currency.” No idea who centennials are – older millennials? – but there you go.

Couching new catch phrases is a Sorrell speciality and he enlightened his audience at Advertising Week by stating that he wasn’t a “plonker.” Actually that he wasn’t a “believer in the plonker strategy” of plonking down great piles of money to buy things, preferring minority deals and alliances.

It wasn’t always thus, of course. Sorrell plonked down great piles of money to buy JWT, Ogilvy, Grey, Y&R, CIA and TNS/Sofres. WPP is still the most active of the marcoms giants in terms of the number of deals it does although it hasn’t bought anything biggish since AKQA a few years ago. WPP may still buy Tesco’s dunnhumby Clubcard business for a knockdown price although it looks more likely that Tesco will hold on.

What’s changed is that the big private equity players and tech giants like Apple, Google and Facebook have much more money than even WPP. Sorrell prefers not to be involved in public auctions for acquisitions these days although he often moves swiftly and ruthlessly in private.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.