Sorrell: Twitter is a 'PR medium' not advertising

Martin Sorrell, the WPP Group chief executive, talked to the Harvard Business Review about everything from the state of the advertising business to social media and emerging technology.

Martin Sorrell, the WPP Group chief executive, talked to the Harvard Business Review about everything from the state of the advertising business to social media and emerging technology.

His interview takes on such topics as programmable T-shirts and Google Glass. He also had a few things to say about Facebook and Twitter, and why he doesn't think they are advertising media.

His comments come a week after Twitter launched its advertising API, which could significantly boost the number of advertisers using Twitter and their ability to manage campaigns.

Sorrell has spoken before about Facebook, admitting it gets him in trouble, and how he doesn't see it as an advertising medium. He reiterated those comments, adding his thoughts on Twitter.

His argument is that Twitter is a PR medium and that it lacks depth. He is obviously not the first to make such comments, but what he says carries weight even if, personally speaking, I think he's wrong.

Twitter has gained much depth over the past year as it has allowed expanded tweets, video, and pictures all to be viewed within the tweet. Here's what he had to say:

Sorrell on Twitter:
I'm going to get myself shot again. I think it's a PR medium. Again, it's very effective word of mouth. If you look at the Olympics in London, the big winner was Twitter. It wasn't Facebook. It wasn't even Google. We did analyses of the Twitter feeds every day, and it's very, very potent. But — and this is the old fart speaking — I think because it's limited in terms of number of characters, it reduces communication to superficialities and lacks depth.

Buzz is important. So in the context of the Super Bowl, being able to respond to the blackout within four minutes with the dunking tweet is just good for generating buzz. We've worked on political campaigns where that kind of responsiveness is important, and it worked here, too. It was a very good move.

Sorrell on Facebook as an effective advertising medium:
I get myself in deep doo-doo when I say this, but Facebook to my mind is not an advertising medium. It is a branding medium. So if I can get you to say something nice about WPP or me or one of our companies on Facebook to your wife, your friends, or whoever, that's good. But it's a long-term mechanism. Compare that with Google. Say you're searching for a car: We know that up to 90% of car purchases in the US are search-influenced. Depending on where you are in the purchase cycle, that No. 1 ranking on Google seems more important than a Facebook “like.” This doesn't deny the potency of Facebook. But it has to be seen in the context of a long continuum of brand building.

You can read the full interview with Sorrell on the site of the Harvard Business Review here.

This blog post originally appeared on The Wall, the sister outlet of PRWeek at Haymarket media.

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