CLOSE-UP: PERSPECTIVE; It’s time to set the record straight in relation to Sorrell

A kind soul has written to say that the longest tenure of the Campaign editorship was seven-and-a-half years, but that the shortest was just one week. Thanks Bernard, very encouraging. Well, in week one, I’m going to do my damnedest to get previous Campaign editors turning in their director of corporate communications offices: I’m going to be nice to Martin Sorrell.

A kind soul has written to say that the longest tenure of the Campaign

editorship was seven-and-a-half years, but that the shortest was just

one week. Thanks Bernard, very encouraging. Well, in week one, I’m going

to do my damnedest to get previous Campaign editors turning in their

director of corporate communications offices: I’m going to be nice to

Martin Sorrell.



Five years ago, Campaign wasn’t kind to Sorrell, but then who was? One

cringe-making moment saw one of our pundits on the radio giving WPP

hours, if not minutes, to live. It said much about the general hysteria

that surrounded Saatchi and Saatchi and WPP at the time.



Sorrell was dismissed contemptuously as ‘a number-cruncher with no

vision’. David Ogilvy’s ‘odious little jerk’ comment was handy for those

who needed an industry icon to support their personal dislike of the

man. And agency managers grumbled about personal remuneration. Measures

such as running down Ogilvy and Mather’s library fuelled the image of a

man who was taking things away from WPP in order to save it, without

putting anything back.



Perhaps there was some truth in this at the time, but Sorrell was, and

still is, seriously under-estimated. Not for his financial acumen and

resilience - these are self-evident. More controversially, he appears

to be one of the few visionaries in the business today. I don’t just

mean because of his deals with Wired or the fact that he has formed

global partnerships with the major telecoms and entertainment giants.

Sorrell has always had the ability to think laterally - look at the

Henley Centre, Metro Video and Millward Brown. What is interesting about

Sorrell today is that, in total contrast to his reputation, he is

constantly making long-term investments, be it publicly (Wired) or

relatively quietly, such as building up WPP’s strategic resource and

funding Cambridge fellowships.



Because he is a genuine global player, Sorrell knows that he must try to

recapture some of the intellectual high ground that the advertising

industry lost in the 80s. He can’t do this simply by buying management

consultancies - advertising’s been there, botched that. Sorrell needs to

win businesses such as IBM’s global account and build them through

developing top-level relationships with clients. And he must create a

unified and truly global media buying force. Finally, Sorrell needs to

either build a third network or lead the industry’s fight-back against

the tyranny of client conflict.



So why is there no Imagination-like company in his portfolio? And what

about buying more publishing and programme production interests of his

own? The only sure thing about Sorrell is that he is on top of these

issues and contemplating or investigating all of the above. If only his

peers had the same ‘lack of vision’.



Topics

Become a member of Campaign from just £45 a quarter

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to campaignlive.co.uk ,plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a member

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an Alert Now

Partner content

Share

1 Why creative people have lost their way

What better way to kick off the inaugural issue of Campaign's monthly print offering than with another think piece on the current failings of our industry, written by an embittered, pretentious creative who misses "the way things used to be"...

Share

1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).