‘Stop Moaning,’ Sorrell Tells Multinational CEOs

27 January 2003

Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of the globe’s largest agency holding company WPP Group, chided his opposite numbers among the globe’s largest advertisers, telling them: “What do we all get paid for? You have to manage in recessions too and realise that a recession is a necessary part of the economic cycle.”

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Sorrell told it like it is. “We got used to the bull market of the 1990s. We’re paid very well to manage our companies. We had nine good years when you could do anything without being Einstein.

“This was followed by the South Sea Bubble or Tulipmania stage when the bubble burst and now we are having three years when things are tough. So what?”

Sir Martin cited as a role model Rupert Murdoch, whom he esteems for his handling of the current economic malaise: “If you look at NewsCorp, he is really investing in its products. One shouldn't moan,” Sorrell scolded.

“There is never a better time to make necessary change happen and to develop the right strategy. So it's time to strip down the aeroplane and keep flying. One shouldn't moan,” he reprised, “because even in tough times there are major opportunities.”

Sorrell then turned to advertising in general and WPP in particular where, he said, the emphasis is changing to focus on the research and direct marketing sectors as opposed to conventional advertising.

“There is greater demand for measurement of the quantitative effectiveness of campaigns,” he pronounced. "Direct marketing and the internet are much more measurable.”

As to world adspend, Sir Martin repeated his mantra: “We don't see a recovery until 2004, when there is the presidential election, football’s European Cup and the Olympics.”

Data sourced from: Telegraph.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff