Twitter, Facebook are new media owners: Sorrell

As Advertising Week kicks off, WPP Group CEO Martin Sorrell has been writing about how business must embrace the digital revolution and talking about how social networks are competitors to companies like his.

As Advertising Week kicks off, WPP Group CEO Martin Sorrell has been writing about how business must embrace the digital revolution and talking about how social networks are competitors to companies like his.

Recently, Sorrell said that Facebook and Twitter weren't advertising mediums at all. He said in particular that Twitter was a PR medium as it lacked depth.

Yesterday, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Sorrell said Google, Facebook, and Twitter, are “new media owners” and that essentially they are no different to News Corporation, CBS, or Viacom.

His comments echoed previous views he has expressed about Google. In 2006, he famously described Google as a “frenemy” and has made frequent reference to WPP's uneasy relationship with the search giant.

Two year ago, Sorrell claimed it was “troubling” at a time when regulators were watching, that Google had denied WPP access to its data.

Writing this weekend, Sorrell returned to the same theme. He said that because of the rising importance of data, companies like WPP were no longer only targeting the chief executive and the CMO, but the chief information or chief technology officer.

He said WPP was increasingly embracing the application of technology to its business, along with big data, and that, he said, meant advertising execs were now “Maths Men as well as Mad Men.”

News Corp sells Fox and Twitter sells Twitter
He then addressed the social networks he said were media owners. This is a label that they have resisted. However, Sorrell said he could see little distinction between Twitter and a traditional media owner.

“We compete not only with advertising and marketing and market research groups, but also with the new technology companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple, and Amazon (which are essentially new media owners) and with technology consulting companies such as Infosys, Wipro, IBM, Accenture, and Deloitte (our auditors!),” Sorrell wrote in the Telegraph.

Sorrell argues that the new world of data and applications, and of new media owners, had created a world in which the advice that groups like WPP can give is at a premium as the use of technology and data becomes a matter of competitive advantage.

“If the new technology companies really are new media owners, which we believe they are, our clients require independent evaluation of how much they are spending on these media and where it's spent – often described as the “Holy Grail of advertising.” Media investment management, the management of our $70 billion-plus media book, for example, becomes even more important.

“Google sells Google, Facebook sells Facebook, Twitter sells Twitter. It's really no different from News Corp selling Fox or The Wall Street Journal or Sumner Redstone selling CBS or Viacom,” Sorrell wrote.

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

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