Agency networks have been publicly ticked off by WPP’s chief executive,
Martin Sorrell, for failing to change their working methods to match
those of their clients.
While clients have boosted their efficiency by switching to less
hierarchical structures, agencies are still doing things the same way
they did 80 years ago, he told a lunch at London’s Mansion House last
He also criticised the ad industry for not doing enough to lure the best
and brightest graduates away from jobs in the City or management
Sorrell launched his broadside as he was named as this year’s winner of
the Publicity Club of London cup for his contribution to marketing and
Sorrell said that clients had seen overseas sales increase from a third
of their business to 45 per cent over the past ten years, posing
questions for their agencies about how best to service their businesses.
At the same time, there has been a concerted drive for greater
efficiency, resulting in an overall 10 per cent increase in sales over
the past five years, while staff levels have dropped by the same amount,
All this, Sorrell added, was taking place against a background of huge
change in the media industry with the emergence of major new
conglomerates and alliances such as the recent ones between Walt Disney
and ABC and NBC and Microsoft.
Meanwhile, an explosion in new technology is changing the way agencies
communicate with consumers, he commented.
Sorrell, whose empire includes J. Walter Thompson and Ogilvy and Mather,
predicted that the changes would force large agencies to behave like
small ones by working faster and being less bureaucratic.
He also urged agencies to harness the power of new technology to change
their emphasis from being geographically driven to client- driven
Sorrell’s comments were made in the wake of last week’s exclusive
interview with Campaign in which he signalled that WPP was laying out
plans to pool the media buying resources of JWT and O&M. He also
revealed that the group, which posted record pre-tax profits of pounds
113.7 million last year, may expand further into media ownership.