At the end of a year in which advertising mourned the death of
David Ogilvy, one of its greatest exponents and wisest sages, the
knighthood bestowed on Martin Sorrell is poignantly ironic.
For years, influential industry figures lobbied for Ogilvy to be
similarly honoured, but to no avail. Not even his vision and eloquence
could overcome the perception that advertising was too immature to be
regarded as a significant contributor to the UK economy.
This is not to suggest that the honouring of WPP’s chief executive is
not much deserved. On the contrary, it is appropriate that what was
denied to Ogilvy should go to the boss of the company owning the agency
he founded. Indeed, it is an indication of how much the communications
industry has moved from the periphery into the mainstream.
Much of this progress is because of the famously workaholic Sorrell.
A Cambridge graduate with a Harvard MBA, Sorrell’s first contact with
the world of advertising was between 1977 and 1986 when he was the group
finance director of Saatchi & Saatchi.
After 14 years at the helm of WPP, he has experienced the highs of the
business - and the lows, thanks to the recession and the realisation
that he paid too much for Ogilvy & Mather in 1984.
Overall, he has helped to force advertising to take itself seriously as
a business and ensured that clients and financial institutions do so