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Cannes Lions 2017: The ad festival need not be held at Cannes, says Sir Martin Sorrell

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Cannes Lions 2017: The ad festival need not be held at Cannes, says Sir Martin Sorrell

The Press Centre at the Palais des Festivals at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2017 turned into a centre of speculation on Friday, as WPP founder and CEO Sir Martin Sorrell questioned the very viability of holding the advertising festival in Cannes. During an informal conversation with journalists at the Press Centre, Sir Martin said, “Cannes in June is not necessarily the right place and time for it. There are places in Paris, New York, London and Berlin – even Bangalore - where it could be held. I think it can be done differently and it can be done better. Every agency and client we have is going through vast technological, goal and structural changes and Cannes should be no different.”  

He noted how expensive it has become to send a delegate to Cannes because of the fact that it is held at a prime holiday destination on the French Riviera, and revealed that the WPP Group  has this time cut down on the number of delegates it sends to the festival from the usual 1000-odd people to about 500. He also said that the Cannes Lions festival is growing disproportionately big and unwieldy, and hence becoming a confusing proposition for delegates who are hard put to choose which part of the content they will consume.


Replying to questions by journalists, Sir Martin said, “The two best companies in my opinion are McKinsey and Goldman & Sachs. Other companies have certainly been around for longer than the 32 years of WPP. We started as a basket company and in our lifetime have grown the company from the ground up, and today, we have over 2,00,000 people in over 113 countries. We have multiplistic brands. In 1987, we acquired JWT Group, in 1989 the Ogilvy Group, and in 2005 it was the Grey Group, the biggest of them all. In my opinion, however, uni-branded companies are stronger than multi-branded companies. Companies with organic growth are stronger according to the ‘tree’ analogy. The difference between uni-branded companies and companies like us that are multi-branded is that they have grown through their values, history, culture, traditions while we have built ourselves through mega acquisitions. People in the industry today are in a hurry to grow owing to internal pressure and competitiveness, but the real way to grow is step by step and it is a process that takes time. We are trying to unify our core objectives which are horizontally through fast growth markets as well as Digital & Data functions.”

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While Cannes has done a marvellous job of extending categories and recognizing good work across newer categories like Health and Integration, for us the challenge is to constantly redefine ourselves in this dynamic industry. We have to keep pushing ourselves by experimenting with new things and taking new risks like the NFL Game Pass, funding of Vice for millennial content, etc. We are pushing our traditional businesses in this new age set-up to redefine our creativity. We have to push our digital businesses like Wunderman and Mirum faster, and also know our competition. Our competition includes direct competitors like Omnicom, Publicis, IPG and Dentsu. It could also be Google and Facebook who can be called frenemies. It can be consulting companies like Accenture, IBM, Deloitte and McKinsey. It could be software companies like Adobe. Going back to the Mad Men reference, 75 per cent of what we do Don Drapper would know.


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