WPP's Sorrell Calls Reuniting Media And Creative Wishful Thinking, Cites Power Grab

Despite a call by the world’s largest marketer to “reunite” media and creative, don’t expect the world’s largest agency holding company to do that -- at least not in the traditional way.

“I think it is very difficult to merge back creative agencies with media agencies to that extent,” WPP Chairman-CEO Martin Sorrell said during a quarterly presentation to investors Thursday, “because there will always be an argument about who’s in control.”

Sorrell’s comment -- which was made when Pivotal Research Group analyst Brian Wieser asked him to react to comments this week by P&G Global Marketing & Brand Growth Officer Marc Pritchard at the Association of National Advertisers’ annual media conference -- reveals the power that media services agencies have gained in the decades since holding companies unbundled media from creative.



Sorrell acknowledged that “ironically, we may have come full circle again,” but maintained that in the near term it is up to the holding company -- not its media, creative and other specialized operating units -- to reintegrate the process for its clients.

“Ultimately, it may be different,” Sorrell said, alluding that there may one day be a more formal structural integration, but repeating the power and control issues that would ensue.

“The argument will always be who leads that team and where should it come from,” he said, adding: “Over the last few years, the answer to that question was no longer traditional creative.”

He noted that WPP and the rest of the industry have come a long way from the days when J. Walter Thompson or Young & Rubicam offered a “whole egg,” or integrated solution, and that the unbundling of all services -- not just media, but “data” and “PR” have led to a new renaissance in strategic and creative thinking that is benefiting clients in new ways.

“Some of the things we’re seeing coming out of PR agencies in terms of digital content development on a 24-7 basis is really critical,” he noted.

1 comment about "WPP's Sorrell Calls Reuniting Media And Creative Wishful Thinking, Cites Power Grab".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, March 2, 2018 at 10:58 a.m.

    At least Martin is responding honestly. You would have to retrain a large percentage of the current agency media planners and, especially the media buyers to get them on the same marketing-oriented wave length as the account groups and the "creatives". Even more difficult would be the parallel retraining of the clients' marketing people who, by and large, know little about media---especially regarding alternatives to what they are used to---and, frankly, could care less.

    As for large agency conglomerates orchestrating such a change---I doubt it. What might work would be special highly skilled media/marketing/creative task forces acting as a type of ombudsman, who reviewed and tried to coordinate the whole process for each brand. BBDO tried this in the 1970s and I was part of such a team but the creatives almost never showed up and it proved impossible to coordinate the media and creative fuctions. All to often the client's brand manager demanded a new media plan before the creative approch and positionning strategy had been worked out, tested and bought into---which invariably meant that national TV was the main media option no matter what the media planners might think. But the brand managers were satisfied. While everyone who counted waited for the creative to be figured out at least there was a media plan---which could always be revised---to show higher ups that the brand manager was on his/her toes and minding the store.

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