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WPP’s Sorrell: Agencies are obsessed with winning business just for the trade press headlines

Agencies are too focused on winning accounts for the trade press headlines, the boss of the world’s biggest marketing group WPP has said.

Sorrell: The ‘noise’ around account wins determines the standing of agency bosses

Speaking at Advertising Week in New York, WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell said that around the world, agencies are still obsessed with getting coverage in the likes of US advertising title AdAge or UK title Campaign.

During the on-stage interview with New Yorker writer Ken Auletta, Sorrell said: “Our industry is too competitive. We are more keen to have the headline in AdAge or Campaign than reality.”

Sorrell said the issue was the same in Australia, citing an example of a WPP agency from last week. Although he did not name the agency, WPP’s media agency Mediacom won the Victorian Government media account while WPP also took the master media account for the NSW government.

Sorrell said: “Whenever we win a piece of business, to this day, somebody sends an email… I mean last week, there were three pieces of business – one in Taiwan, one in Australia, one in India. All three cases somebody says ‘fantastic news’.

“Nobody ever puts the scale of what has been won. They never say the revenues are X – forget about profitability –  they never give value or scale.

“So, winning is really important. The headline in the trade magazine is really important. That determines, in a way, your standing in the organisation. It’s the noise rather than the content.

“Our industry does suffer an intense competitive dynamic, to my mind like the newspaper industry, which faces an existential crisis.”

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