MEDIA: PERSPECTIVE; Global vision sets Sorrell apart from insular strategists

Martin Sorrell, media visionary and guru. No doubt he would be the first to admit it was an unlikely notion, but then again, why not? Sorrell may not be universally popular - one suspects even he would be worried if he was - but there can be few who dispute his abilities as a thinker about the advertising business - both in the abstract and in the practical. Indeed, in this respect he shares many attributes with Chris Ingram, who also devotes much of his time to thinking about about where we are all going from a similarly broad perspective.

Martin Sorrell, media visionary and guru. No doubt he would be the first

to admit it was an unlikely notion, but then again, why not? Sorrell may

not be universally popular - one suspects even he would be worried if he

was - but there can be few who dispute his abilities as a thinker about

the advertising business - both in the abstract and in the practical.

Indeed, in this respect he shares many attributes with Chris Ingram, who

also devotes much of his time to thinking about about where we are all

going from a similarly broad perspective.



So when Sorrell talks about media, as he does in this week’s issue of

Campaign (page 54), it’s my humble opinion that we should all sit up and

take notice. And one of the things that gives his opinion more saliency

is that he speaks as a semi-detached outsider from the business rather

than with an operational perspective.



That doesn’t mean we have to agree with everything he says. I don’t, but

he has more than earned the right to be heard.



I don’t, for example, agree with his notion that the trend of detaching

the media from the creative is a process that needs to be reversed. Yes,

I can understand why he might say that. After all, he was at Saatchi and

Saatchi pre-Zenith, and that’s the way his own agencies practise media.

Sentimentally, it’s comforting to believe that that’s the way it works

best. But where’s the evidence? And if it really did work that way, how

does one then explain the consistent success of media independents in

the past ten years? Or are they really just trading off ‘an imperfection

in the market’, as one media practitioner swears Sorrell once

demeaningly described the success of independents to him?



But I do agree with Sorrell when he says that media buyers have been

lamentably slow to match media owners in building global operations. As

he has observed elsewhere, there is no media buyer with a global reach

comparable with that of Murdoch or Disney. Yet as more clients look to

their agencies to run global deals for them, who’s doing it? Nobody. As

a senior media owner observed to me rather acidly, there are plenty of

buyers who can buy media globally (ie everything from a poster in Moscow

to a TV spot in Peru) but there aren’t any who can globally buy media

(ie act as one unit) from global media owners. So for WPP to address

this problem is clearly the right move and if WPP can’t get it

right...well, who can?



Sorrell also gets it right on the button with his observation that

‘media people need to be as good at ‘walking with’ media owners as they

are at walking with clients’, by which he means really understanding how

media owners work. Unfortunately, they don’t, which, I suspect, he well

knows. This doesn’t mean that WPP is there yet, but with its hiring of a

head of broadcast from the ABC network and its investment in HotWired,

I’d put my money on Sorrell getting there first.



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