Sir Martin Sorrell Says the Advertising Industry Is ‘Too Competitive’

The WPP CEO also weighed in on Facebook and consultancies

The WPP chief shared his thoughts on the state of the industry.
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WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell has a few ideas about what the advertising industry’s biggest woes are and how it can move past them, but he also thinks the “tiddly-pop little industry” is too obsessed with winning.

“Our industry is too competitive,” Sorrell said at an Advertising Week panel on Monday, jokingly adding, “I’m going to get shot for saying this.” 

“Winning is really important” in advertising, he continued, but the headlines in trade magazines “are the noise, not the compass.”

“Until there’s one agency, you can’t change that,” he said, adding that he believes the industry is headed towards a future with fewer agencies and holding companies.

Sorrell said agencies should be less concerned about competing head to head with consultancies than “when consultancies go into companies and say you’re spending too much on marketing.”

Ultimately, he thinks that it’s “being regarded as being a cost” and “benchmarked to death” that agencies should really worry about. 

“Many years ago we were regarded as being an investment,” he said, “today we’re regarded as being a cost … If you invest in innovations and brands you win.”

“Fundamentally I do believe that what we do adds value, when harnessed with innovation,” he added. 

Sorrell, who has voiced criticisms of the network before, also weighed in on Facebook’s latest scandal involving anti-Semitic ad targeting.

“These companies are media companies and have the same responsibilities as Rupert Murdoch,” he said. “Once they acknowledge they are media companies … it all falls into place,” he later added. “They have to take responsibility for what flows through their pipes.”