WPP Chief Sir Martin Sorelle on Media Landscape


Sir Martin Sorrell, Chief Executive, WPP Group, gave the Keynote address at the E4M Conclave and was welcomed onstage amidst a thundering applause. The multifaceted entrepreneur began by talking about how the ‘world has shifted’ and how the embryonic but expanding industries of the East, Middle East and the South East have led to this massive shift. He jokingly assured the packed hall that he finds high quality business in India and if he were to find the same in every other country, he would cheerfully retire. In times of a weaker Rupee and an even weaker economy, he found it to be of paramount importance to find clients who are national in terms of India, regional in terms of the Asia Pacific and are soon going global.

He, moreover, went on to say that the West considers itself to be most important but fails to understand the shift of power. He stated that 200 years ago, India and China constituted almost 40 -50 % of world GDP and will soon return to the same position in 2030, according to Goldman Sachs. With great and aggressive expansion in Africa, Latin America and the South East, even with political, infrastructural and funding problems, traditional power has moved from the West. Sorrell went on to question the paradox that has emerged in the current situation where there is a significant over-capacity in markets such as China or India but in a situation of high levels of unemployment. With lower birth rates and social repercussions, the speaker predicted that there will soon be a lack of human capital.

With 18 billion Dollars in revenue, Sir Sorrell said that the proposed investment in digital media will be 40-45%. The digital market has emerged in an astounding way and is now challenging the legacy media industries as well as radio, film and music.

Moving ahead and talking about WPP, he said that especially multi-branded companies should try to have a strong internal communication, since intel communication leads to strategic planning and execution. Even then, he pointed out, it is difficult to maintain it within multi branded companies and thus, centralization has become a direct effect of such a situation. It is difficult to know about the best assets for the company without local knowledge. Therefore, country managers are a better lot to work with and important for strong acquisitions. These same acquisitions lead to a global and local importance for the umbrella company.

Pointing out other areas that affect the industry, Sir Sorrell talked about the growth of the government as an investor, influencer and regulator since it is one of the most important clients that a company can have. Especially in times of electoral politics, government deficits are never an issue and they happen to become the largest clients. Another measure of growth and development in the advertising industry is the acceptance of social responsibility. It has now moved from the margins to become one of the most crucial actions since ‘doing good is business’.

The WPP response to such great changes that are coming its way is to ‘do what we do but faster’. Sir Sorrell ended his most enlightening speech by saying that there will be a 40-45 % of focus on digital media and organic growth along with small to medium acquisitions which would be a third to a half of the growth and hopefully these choices will lead to successes.

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acquisitions digital expansion martin sorell paradox shift wpp

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