Born-again Sorrell on S4’s buy plans, WPP and the importance of investing in agency brands

Prior to performing at Adweek London S4 Capital’s Sir Martin Sorrell shared some thoughts with Ian King at Sky, here.

It’s an instructive five minutes or so from a seemingly energised SMS. Among other things he says he wants to buy an “infill” (ie small) creative company in Amsterdam to add to Media Monks plus his cherished first party data company.

He describes changes in the TV, or commercial screen business as we should probably call it, saying network TV is being “compressed” although he doesn’t expect it to be laid waste by digital as the newspaper industry has been.

He takes a pop at WPP (of course) saying it’s rationalising its brands too fast – he says “simplicity is for hobgoblins,” which is a bit opaque but hardly a compliment. He also accuses WPP of managing by spreadsheet.

He says the US-based big holding companies – Omnicom and Interpublic – are doing better than their European rivals – WPP and Publicis – because they’re changing less rapidly, continuing to “invest in their agency brands.” Furthermore complexity and “messy” can be better.

This might raise more than an eyebrow at his old company where Sorrell signally failed to invest in his creative agency brands. But he’s right.

When the facts change I change my mind, someone famous once said.

Welcome to the born-again Sir Martin Sorrell.

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About Stephen Foster

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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.

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