LONDON: Right now the world needs optimists. But caution, rather than optimism, is the label most folk would tie around the neck of Sir Martin Sorrell (pictured) – author of the famed 'bath-shaped' recovery simile back in June 2002.

But the chief executive of WPP Group – on course to become the world's largest marketing services conglomerate on completion of its acquisition of Taylor Nelson Sofres – is now hyping the virtues of investment during troubled times.

Sorrell told Media WeekUK: "Our view is that when times are tough, it's the time to invest not cut. This comes from years of research dating back to Ogilvy's Alex Biel in the eighties and Millward Brown's interaction surveys before then.

"Industry research has consistently shown that if we cut marketing during such times, the impact is damaging and it can take you longer to get back to where you were."

Using data trawled by GroupM, Sorrell has oft predicted that  2009 will be a difficult year while urging clientside marketers not to decimate their marketing budgets. "Of course, it's easy to say, but harder to do," he concedes.

"The Pavlovian reaction is to cut, but I think the media industry can learn from someone like Rupert Murdoch, who historically has never done that. You'll see him investing in editorial and products at a time when other people are throwing the baby out with the bath water."

Continuing to whistle in the dark with fingers crossed, Sorrell says that the current downturn need not be protracted. He predicts that the financial markets are likely to pick up by mid-2009, "almost as quickly as they fell away".

And provided that the markets follow Sorrell's Law (rather than that of J K Galbraith), Sir Martin believes that a "real world" recovery can be expected in the "mini-quadrennial year of 2010".

Recovery will be boosted by five key global events: the mid-term US elections; the Vancouver Winter Olympics; the soccer World Cup in South Africa, Shanghai World Expo and the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China.

Or as an earlier seer (Virgil) put it: "If there is any justice anywhere and a mind recognizing in itself what is right, may the gods bring you your earned rewards."

Which, in the case of the savvy knight, they have!

Data sourced from BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff