WPP CEO Martin Sorrell sat down with PRWeek to talk mergers, servicing accounts across agency brands, procurement, and staying focused.
"People when they are taking a cheap shot will say the parent companies or holding companies are focused entirely on returns and margins. But you don't get returns and margins magically out of thin air. It comes from hiring good people, developing and training them, and they do good work for clients, and you make your margins."
Sorrell spoke with PRWeek at the PRCA annual conference, and turned heads with a few bullish predictions about growth in Asia.
"The things that keep me awake at night are the internet and China. By 2014, two-thirds of the world's population will live in Asia. The professional class is a small percentage of these societies, but there are still 150 million to 200 million people in Asia who are interested in our services. We were never truly globalized; rather, we were Americanized. But a massive shift in influence is taking place from West to East. We’re seeing the reverse of a 200-year economic cycle."
Sorrell argues in an op-ed that the future of PR and public affairs is brighter than ever.
"These days, PR and public affairs are much more about what you know rather than who you know. It is true that connections are still important, but the days of the big black Cadillacs, tuxedos, and flowers to clients’ partners are, thankfully, mostly long gone. Now it is more about knowledge, information, and strategic and creative thinking."
Years before Twitter would double its character limit, Sorrell made the case its character count was holding the platform back to the Harvard Business Review.
"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 the number of characters, it reduces communication to superficialities and lacks depth."
On how the web shaped WPP:
"Many years ago, we started calling Google a "frenemy." Now we invest more than $2.5 billion of clients’ money with Google, and, while not everyone agrees with me, I see it as a friendlier frenemy these days. I absolutely have no regrets about the impact of the web on our industry. Though others might regret the volume of emails they receive from me!"
One way to describe the Omnicom-Publicis merger falling apart…
"Eyes bigger than tummy."
Are PR firms ready to take on advertising agencies by themselves? In a word, no.
"PR companies are doing more work around social media and digital, and hiring more creative people, but those who tell you they are taking on the advertising agencies on their own are living in la la land. Yes, as part of an integrated pitch, they might well be involved, but not on their own."
Rebutting Publicis boss Maurice Levy’s statement that the Erin Johnson vs. JWT case was not indicative of behavior across the industry.
"His view was that the J. Walter Thompson and Gustavo Martinez case was a one-off. I disagree. I would disagree violently with that supposition. Maurice has a habit of ignoring the facts."
To Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey:
"You were in San Francisco in your pyjamas; some would look at you and say you’re still in your pyjamas."
Why the future of PR and public affairs is still bright
"For those PR and public affairs businesses that offer scale and breadth of capability alongside the flexibility, speed, and efficiency that clients expect (as ours do), the medium- to long-term future is bright."