Sorrell: Advocacy is part of advertising

He added that brands must differentiate Millennials from centennials.

WPP CEO Martin Sorrell
WPP CEO Martin Sorrell

LONDON: Advocacy is not threatening to usurp advertising because they are both part of the same process, according to WPP chief executive Martin Sorrell.

Sorrell was talking with Johnny Hornby, the founder of The & Partnership, at an event called Advocacy is the New Advertising, organized by the network and held at Soho Hotel on Tuesday.

In the opening discussion, called Is Advocacy Fundamentally Changing the Advertising Business?, Sorrell began by addressing the question outright.

"The answer is no. It’s a false distinction. [Advocacy is] a part of advertising. It’s an evolution," he said.

Sorrell went on to say that much of WPP’s income is no longer dependent on traditional advertising agencies. About £5 billion, or $7.4 billion, comes from media, another £5 billion from data, and another £5 billion from digital.

"And if you think about the £75 billion ($111.3 billion) in media assets that we manage. Google is the biggest and what drives that is mobile search and video," he said. "It’s sacrilege to say this to some people, but the media part of it is as important as the message or may have even become more important."

Sorrell also said WPP differentiates itself from rival ad networks, and media owners such as Google and Facebook, through its technology arms such as AppNexus and Xaxis.

In the same talk, Sorrell said it is important to distinguish between Millennials and centennials, who have very different habits.

"The up-to-15-year-olds are very different in their social habits, and their attitudes towards Snapchat and having parents hovering over them [while they’re using social media]," he commented.

He also joked with Hornby by referencing rumors that the latter would succeed him as chief executive of WPP when the 70-year-old retired.

At a later talk about how passionate customers can make or break a business, O2 chief executive Ronan Dunne said the private sector had been "found out."

He explained the corporate sector had not delivered on its responsibilities to society over the past decade and now companies must use the power of their brands to do good.

This story first appeared on Campaign.

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