WPP’s Sorrell hints at professional mortality at Adweek

Is this is a clue?

Speaking during a one-to-one with the New Yorker’s Ken Auletta (who’s writing a book on advertising) at Advertising Week in New York, WPP founder Sir Martin Sorrell, 72, said, apropos of the ad industry in ten years’ time: “I won’t be around then.”

He probably won’t of course – be around in advertising that is – but this may be the first time Sorrell (below) has owned up to mortality, of the professional kind. Admittedly off the cuff.

But it’s reasonable to see this as an admission that WPP needs to change (which he’s already admitted) and, maybe, that Sorrell’s brand of benevolent dictatorship (we’re being kind here) is no longer the best way to run such a huge and rambling organisation.

It may also hint that the great man is feeling a bit jaded with it all. He’s spent decades building up a company latterly primarily founded on the might of his media agencies (who find they’re not so mighty any more in a media world dominated by Facebook, Google and, maybe, Amazon) and also extolling the benefits of branding and the way that advertising should be seen as an investment rather than a cost.

The business world, increasingly dominated by business school-educated consultants who are there to increase quarterly earnings, isn’t listening like it used to. Even long-time brand builders like Procter & Gamble and Unilever are professing doubts about parts of this mantra.

Which must be pretty depressing, even for someone of Sorrell’s legendary resilience.

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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.

2 comments

  1. He’s writing a book on advertising? Really? The only thing he’s ever done is buy companies but he’s never managed a client or did a pitch or managed a creative team. Is he going to write a book about buying advertising companies? “First I look at their EBITDA and use that to develop a calculation for an earn out. However, we must take into account the time value of money.” Fascinating! What insight!

    Or perhaps he’s going to write a book entitled “What to do when you’re industry passed you 5 years ago and your holding company is shrinking, clients are mad about rebates and non-transparent business practices and Google and Facebook are eating your lunch.”

  2. It’s the New Yorker guy who’s writing the book Marc although I agree that SMS on advertising would be an interesting tome.

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