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Cannes 2015: Running WPP 5 years from now is not in my hands but Maurice Levy will still be there: Sir Martin Sorrell

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Cannes 2015: Running WPP 5 years from now is not in my hands but Maurice Levy will still be there: Sir Martin Sorrell

“Traditional media are undervalued, because the measurement systems are clearly lacking. Traditional media like newspapers and magazines are undervalued. The amount of time spent on them and their engagement levels are extremely high, the average time spent on the Times in the UK for instance is about 40 minutes, it is not only about time spent on a medium, it is about how people engage with a medium,” said Sir Martin Sorrell, WPP Group CEO.

Sorrel was interviewed by BBC’s Stephen Sackur before a live audience at Cannes 2015.

When asked if he would still be running WPP five years from now, he said in his trademark style, “That is not in my hands, one thing I can guarantee you Maurice Levy (Chairman & CEO of Publicis Groupe) will still be there.”

Answering another question on what was he was seeing at Cannes this year that was going to impact the advertising industry and specifically the emerging markets, Sorrell commented, “I hate the phrase emerging markets. Look at China; we can’t call it an emerging market, it has emerged! South Africa for us it is a $500 million market. I don’t want to depress people, but there is pressure inside our business. Now when you look at Cannes, it is vibrant. Who is providing that vibrancy? It is what they call ad tech. By the way, these are not technology companies, these are new media companies. They are masquerading as technology companies. These are media owners, they are trying to monetise inventory. Let us not be duplicitous about it. They are the same as traditional media companies but they provide the whim and the vigour. What is really interesting in new media, the pattern of behaviour shifts depending on how successful they are. With Google, you are seeing the softer side (of Google), because of the regulatory issues and competition from Facebook. Yahoo interestingly is being very aggressive in our experience, in trying to build its sale of inventory and approach. Facebook has momentum and is becoming more aggressive, it is more like what Google was 4 or 5 years ago. Twitter is going to be interesting to watch with the new leadership.”

Sorrell also confessed that he has got the balance wrong sometimes when it came to balancing between work, family and society. “As I get older and wiser hopefully I balance better, there are very few people who have managed to balance family career and society, in my view they are exceptionally gifted.” 

(The excerpts are part of the live audience Q and A and interview at Cannes on 25th June.)

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