No longer should western players be taken more seriously than their Chinese counterparts, Sorrell told delegates to Advertising Week in New York.
“Alibaba and Tencent are the ones you really have to watch out for. I think what they will do is expand,” he said in remarks reported by Mumbrella.
“The west basically doesn’t want China to succeed. We – I wouldn’t put myself in that category because I don’t agree with it – but we don’t want China to succeed. We want to outcompete them, but they are going to win.”
The internet is growing everywhere, but China, with its enormous population and attendant tsunami of data, is moving even faster. If we think “the speed of internet disruption is fast here,” he said. “look over there”.
“They will win the competitive battle. Tencent and Alibaba in particular – and Huawei.”
Interviewed onstage by New Yorker media critic Ken Aluetta, the chief executive of the world’s biggest marketing communications group added that he had returned just two weeks ago from a trip to China.
“We saw 31 companies in ten days around the whole of China, getting a grip, mainly local companies.”
But other companies have more visibility and more traction in the west already. Electronics manufacturer Huawei, which is primarily known for phones but is expanding to wearables, tablets, and now laptops, also caught Sorrell’s eye.
The size of Huawei’s Shenzhen workforce, around 200,000 people, is noteworthy; as is that of Alibaba – around 15,000.
Sorrell also believes the era of cheap copycat products is over. “We think they steal technology? Well they may have done a few years ago. We could have said the same thing about the Japanese, the same thing about the Hong Kong Chinese and the South Koreans.”
For the time being, the competition remains in Asian markets, but Sorrell believes it is a precursor of a larger trend to come. He noted the “head-to-head battle” between the Alibaba-owned Lazada platform and America’s Amazon in Singapore. “It’s going to be very interesting to see who wins.
“They will start to penetrate the south east Asian markets, India and places like that and sweep that way, just like from a foreign policy point of view they swept that way and into Africa.”
Sourced from Mumbrella; additional content by WARC staff