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.