Sir Martin Sorrell has enjoyed almost as much media coverage as hapless football referee Graham Poll this week, though, in Sorrell’s case, with no talk of red cards.
First, the Financial Times reported his warning to Midlands business folk of the commercial impact that subversive e-communications can have on a bona fide business trying to earn an honest crust from on-line dealings.
Then the WPP boss let his hair down at the Cannes Lions Ad Festival with what US magazine Advertising Age described as ‘a seven-minute performance that was like a lightening bolt of entertainment’.
Sorrell’s ‘clever parody, lampooning himself, as well as his agencies’ creative departments and account planners’, stole the show. ‘I’ve often thought how much easier it would be to run an advertising agency if you could only get rid of the creative department,’ he said, provocatively, going on to introduce images of ‘the first fully automated creative department’.
It was all good, clean fun, aimed at the ad industry – a resilient bunch, we’re told, despite current commercial constraints, compared with the tender souls in design. And it’s good to see WPP’s beleaguered leader showing his lighter side.
But perhaps Sorrell should now look to the design elements of his global portfolio, to offer them light relief and inspiration. In his open letter to Sorrell and Rodney Fitch, former Fitch Worldwide chief creative officer Ted Leonhardt paints an unhappy picture of mergers within WPP, alleging wasted resources and a disregard for the people behind those businesses.
We have heard such accusations before, levelled at all the global networks – FutureBrand’s dealings with its European offices, for example, acquired largely through acquisition. But we have also heard good news from the networks, as branding jockeys with advertising to win client favour.
Perhaps now is a good time for Sorrell to share his vision for design with our community. We invite his response through our pages.