WPP Group ceo Sir Martin Sorrell has honed his cautious stance on the fortunes of the world's advertising market to an artform on par with a Beethoven string quartet.

Admired for his sagacity when events prove him right, few remember - or care - when his circumspection is unfounded.

So when the canny knight confides he is "a little bit more confident" about the market, the planet sits up and pays heed. Sorrell's optimism follows Monday's announcement of WPP's bullish 2004 financial performance with profits hiked 15% [WAMN: 28-Feb-05].

But Sir Martin is always less edgy about matters over which he exerts direct control - profit margins, for example - telling the Financial Times he believes WPP will achieve an operating profit margin of at least 14.3% this year and 14.8% in 2006. Both assumptions take account of WPP's expected ingestion of Grey Global Group later this month.

But when quizzed by analysts about the travails of WPP's Young & Rubicam network (which recently lost a number of major clients including, this month, Sony Electronics and Ford Motor Company's Jaguar marque), Sorrell's DNA reasserted itself.

"Young & Rubicam ... has to raise its game and we are taking actions to try to improve that level of success," he told the haruspices. "They have had some disappointments."

As to the changes necessary to raise the Y&R game, Sorrell remained unforthcoming.

  • Another WPP unit, J Walter Thompson, which earlier this year embraced 21st century hip by rebranding as JWT [WAMN: 27-Jan-05], became cooler yet this week with the launch of Diversify, a London-based specialist agency focussing on ethnic minorities.

    A six-strong team will work alongside other agencies in WPP with the aim of producing ads of greater appeal to minority groups, drawing its creative talent from those communities.

    Avers Sandip Vadher, who will head Diversify: "UK advertising does not engage with Asian or black audiences. It's very patronising."

    The move replicates a trend that has spread like wildfire in the US. And as JWT's London ceo Simon Bolton points out: "There is nothing like the awareness [in the UK] that there is in the US and it's much needed."

    Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff