WPP's Sir Martin Sorrell on the State of Advertising

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LinkedIn Executive Editor Dan Roth speaks with WPP's Sir Martin Sorrell about the state of advertising, creativity, Mad Men, and more. …

LinkedIn Executive Editor Dan Roth speaks with WPP's Sir Martin Sorrell about the state of advertising, creativity, Mad Men, and more.

Some of our favorite quotes from the interview:

"[This year at Cannes] for the first time, they will be including awards for data and data visualization in addition to health care. So Cannes is sort of expanding into areas which Don Draper wouldn't recognize. In fact, there's about three quarters of our business in digital, media planning and buying and data. Sort of our $18 billion, projected $19 billion of revenues for this year, three quarters of it is stuff that Don Draper in the '60s wouldn't have known of. So this balance — of mad men, math men, of art and science, left brain, right brain — is really very important and we have to understand it."

Why he thinks American Express’s recent decision to shift 100% of its online ad buying to programmatic is a sign of creativity:
"The financial services companies tend to be amongst the most sophisticated in the use of online and digital and John Hayes who's the CMO of AmEx has been in the forefront along with Ken Chenault, the CEO, of building their reputation online — not just in programmatic buying but in understanding the importance of targeting. That's creativity. [I]t's not about a 30-second TV ad, [but] that doesn't mean that that's not highly creative and on the forefront and cutting edge."

On instituting “horizontality” at WPP – the concept of having one client's work spread across WPP offices and brands, with a "client leader" overseeing each of the 41 largest accounts, responsible for 1/3 of WPP’s revenue. (Sorrell delights in calling the nearly merged Publicis-Ominicom Group, "POG.")
"We haven’t pulled it off yet… I think we're getting better at it and I think we're better than POG — or the failed POG or the dead POG — and the others. For one-plus-one to be more than two, we have to get value: Value for our clients and value for our people. Our clients because we'll be more effective and more efficient, and for our people because they will learn more by interacting with people inside the company… I'm convinced that this is the best structure."

On why the work in reorganizing WPP is taking time — and how he sees that as a sign that he's hired the right people.
"It's very difficult sometimes to find good people, excellent people who are cooperative. You find average people are cooperative. It's a very difficult and dangerous thing to say because… the average people think that to be good, they have to be difficult. So it defeats the purpose. But it really is difficult… At the end of the day, the real acid test is whether you can manage very strong people who have very strong track records. And I have to admit, it's very difficult. So I would say a third to 40% is selling in, two-thirds really is making it work."

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  • Kudos to LinkedIn for presenting these interviews. Given the stark, acoustically bad environment the commentary was interesting. As a '70s ad man I can relate to the fun and challenge of the 'Mad Men' era. To put across an effective and engrossing message on media that even then was quickly evolving was a real challenge, one that brought some of the great ads from incredibly creative people. The 'Math Men/Women' while using creative skills in their work, don't have to address as many layers of subjectivity. I still put the emphasis on the creative message to produce results.
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  • Although Sir Martin Stuart claims not to try to run the global empire in a hands on way, his turning up at the crack of dawn each day in the Farm St HQ rather belies this,

    English financiers are extraordinarily good at rattling off the vital statistics of their companies,. world class in fact. His grasp of the company he founded is encyclopaedic.
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  • Great piece, with a familiar title ... (From Mad Men to Stat Men: http://bit.ly/madstat)
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  • The subject of 'horizontality' though an ugly word is a key challenge for WPP. When I worked there we were focussed on hitting the figures of our own company targets rather than co-operating with O&M or JWT. However they did introduce the global team concept and that is having some effect. I think Sir Martin could well apply the digital solutions that he has leveraged for advertising and external comms and turn them internally to help 160,000 people work better together. Time for an enterprise social network in WPP surely...
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  • This is awesome. I am working on a way to bring the left brain to the right brain in the Mobile Programatic space for Q4 at Zapp360. We need to keep creativity at the heart of advertising, 1+1 makes 2, to make more you need value that doesn't exist until this product surfaced.
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