Some crisis talking points from Sir Martin Sorrell

S4 Capital’s Sir Martin Sorrell (below) has been speaking at CogX, described as the “global leadership summit and festival for A1 and breakthrough technology” (better than going to Cannes obviously.)

Here are some of the highlights:

The End of Print: “Whatever the date is, it has come forward a lot, so shifting to an all-digital platform, subscription based and advertising based is key.”

The Impact of Coronavirus: “Covid-19 to my mind is a burning platform for digital disruption” (we’ve heard that already Martin.) People said about Covid-19 that it affects everybody..it does affect everybody, but not equally”.

Black Lives Matter & Diversity at Work: “Black Lives Matter is a burning platform for change in terms of racism. We haven’t really made much progress in racism and racial bias in 52 odd years… what we are seeing now is these movements are much more broadly based. The fact that 25% of Americans are currently unemployed obviously exacerbates the issue.

“Meaningful statements, in my view, are meaningless…. The meaningful statement is, in my view one level, but what you have to do is you have to have meaningful change and actions.

“I disagree with ripping down statues (as had happened in the UK), but having said that, I do understand the emotion, and the feeling.”

On Working from Home: “I think it is profound. I think it will be a big change..even those people who have a lack of space at home, even those people that have young kids to educate at home and the pressures that brings, it brings a better balance. I feel like I’m in a privileged position, I acknowledge that. But I feel much, much better physically and mentally for not rushing around the world.”

“We invest about 35-40 million in office property. I’d like to take that 35-40 million and invest it in people. It’s not going to go back to where it was. This is not a new normal, this is a next normal.”

The UK’s response to Covid-19: “Our government, here in the UK, you know, moved too slowly. The US government moved too slowly. I know it’s easy to criticise, and I understand some of the reasons for it, but when they move too slowly, they overreact.

“There was a risk that we would have a mortality rate of 300,000 to 500,000 because the Chinese mortality rates at that time indicated it. They knew, but they went down the herd immunity route for want of a better phrase, and then they panicked in the middle of March or the beginning of March.

“They changed their point of view and they overreacted, they went too far I think.”

You can watch CogX here if you have the video stamina.

Sorrell is always good for a soundbite or three, although we’ve had enough burning platforms for now. so what’s relevant to the wacky world of adverts (or content or whatever we’re supposed to call it these days?)

He’s probably right about print (sadly) although some papers and magazines (Saturday and Sunday versions, Private eye, specialist interest) will probably hang in there. The remark about office costs is interesting, they’ll almost certainly be cut when leases and the rest allow. He feels better for not gadding around the world (but I bet he does when air travel resumes.)

More generally, the UK government and the various health authorities are in for a right kicking when the proper Covid-19 inquest begins (rightly) and Black Lives Matter has seen a lot of corporate posing. The current ridiculous Twitter spat featuring Yorkshire Tea and then PG Tips being a case in point. What’s tea got to do with it, grow up guys.

As for Sorrell, where would we be without him?

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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.

One comment

  1. Avatar

    Didn’t he say a week or so ago that he would stop going to conferences? That didn’t last long did it? Yeah, I know, this was “virtual.” But, it’s still a bloody conference.