Whistling in the Dark? Sorrell Offers Adland a Hint of Hope in 09

21 November 2008

BARCELONA: Addressing Morgan Stanley's Annual Technology, Media & Telecoms conference in Barcelona, WPP Group ceo Sir Martin Sorrell struggled to find a silver lining to the economic stormclouds massed over adland. 

Given that it's an ill wind that blows nobody good, Sorrell sees the likelihood of el cheapo buys among struggling marketing and media companies.

"Traditional media companies in traditional markets . . . will be at bargain basement prices." But despite these bargain basement buys, Sorrell warned that advertising companies can expect an even tougher business climate in 2009 than this year.

Echoing the predictions of many economists and business leaders, the adland knight expects the upturn to begin in 2010 – if only because of the massive bailouts and stimulation packages screwed from taxpayers by their respective governments.

Sir Martin said one chief executive he met in Washington estimated the global total of the fiscal shot in the arm to be  $9,000bn (€7,145bn; £5,962bn). "I came away from that [meeting] believing that, whether you like it or not, there will be that major fiscal stimulus."

"That is the good news. The bad news is the longer term implications which are very serious in terms of government debt . . . and in terms of the world we leave our children and our grandchildren."

Responding to another question, Sorrell opined that the current dominance of the world's three largest advertising companies, (Omnicom, WPP, and Interpublic) made a merger between Havas of France and the UK's Aegis Group "look even more sensible".

As to whether the imminent sea change in US political governance would help or hinder the economic situation, Sorrell was diplomatically ambivalent.

"Whether it is the lame duck administration or the incoming administration, there is clearly going to be a further massive fiscal stimulus package for the US economy and there are at least another twenty countries involved in some form of restructuring or guaranteed measures on liquidity," he reassured. 

Forget Obama's words, Sir Martin has pronounced.

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff