Sir Martin Sorrell Told Creatives Everywhere to Stop Complaining

By Patrick Coffee 

Here’s a quick one we missed due to all the other things going on in and around this kind-of-amazing industry over the past week or so.

You may have heard that Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of the official “Holding Company of the Year” for 2016, told AdAge in an interview recorded at this year’s Cannes festival that he’s not sure whether WPP will even bother participating in 2017. He (rightly) observed that organizers have made the event “too big and too hectic” in an attempt to bring in more revenue and said, “At some levels I believe it has lost a bit of its focus.”

He made some specific comments about creativity in advertising that also got our attention.

Regarding the increasing presence of ad tech and social media companies, their ostentatious yachts and their unavoidable, poorly designed billboards, he told the World Advertising Research Center (WARC):

“The simple fact of the matter is whether you or I like or not, or whether the creative community likes it or not, our business has become more technologically related.”

It’s almost like he’s tired of hearing creatives complain about this subject. He then removed any doubt about his feelings:

“The snottiness of believing that creativity just resides in the creative department of traditional agencies, that media people can’t be creative, or data people can’t be or people who do healthcare or promotion or CRM can’t be creative – it’s a nonsense and it’s insulting to the people who are in those areas.”

See, he has a pretty good point there. But he chose to make it in such a way as to essentially tell “traditional” creatives to get the fuck over it.

Today “Ad Contrarian” Bob Hoffman had some thoughts on Sir Martin and creativity, and they were about as kind as one would expect.

Hoffman writes, “Martin Sorrell is to advertising what McDonald’s is to food. He demonstrates no appreciation for the art, quality or grace of it. His only interest is in making it lay more golden egg mcmuffins. … He pretends that because we call a certain department the ‘creative department’ that we are disdainful or unappreciative of contributions from others. This is utter bulllshit.”

Well, we don’t know that it’s utter bullshit. But sure.

“He pretends that in the ad business the people in the creative department think they have a monopoly on creative thinking,” Hoffman writes, adding, “Pure trash. Every endeavor can be improved by creative thinking. Creativity is a way of thinking, not a department.”

Of course Bob is a little touchy about this subject, as are many of our readers. It’s understandable that people will be pissed when a man who’s never done what they do basically says that their work may not be quite as important as they seem to think it is.