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Sir Martin Sorrell: “Privatise C4; Trump could win”

Sir Martin Sorrell, delivering IBC’s ‘Global View’ Keynote in his position as CEO of creative giant WPP, gave a barnstorming speech and explained WPP’s impressive record (194,000 employees, 113 countries) and how recent openings in Cuba and more recently Iran (“83 million people and our biggest opportunity since Vietnam”) would further expand WPP’s global presence.

Sir Martin continually amused delegates, but also issued a handful of cautionary warnings; that Donald Trump has a real chance of winning the US presidential election; that the UK’s Channel 4 should be privatised (“the market should decide”); and that Google and Facebook needed to be more transparentin how they counted advertising impacts.

He was blunt, saying that Google and Facebook were not technology companies, but media players. “They have advertising inventory which they monetise.

These two cannot be both referee and player. If you believe time spent [engaged with media] is the correct metric, then how do you equate a typical 40 minutes spent reading a newspaper, with the 3 seconds spent ‘watching’ an online ad which perhaps has the audio turned down? This cannot equate with a 15- or 30-second ad on TV.”

Sir Martin also argued that the retail brands that currently dominate could be under considerable pressure, as the likes of Amazon, Alibaba and Tencent continue to grow. “Just a few years ago Amazon was 15 per cent of the British Post Office’s delivery business, now it delivers its own parcels.

While we might focus on the duopoly of Google and Facebook, the real ‘big one’ coming is Amazon. Amazon is going to produce private-label packages, they are already the second-biggest clothing platform in the USA.

He said that while the USA maintained its top position in the ad-world in terms of spend and value, he suggested that China and India (“India has supplanted Brazil, for us”) were still his hot favourites for growth, as were other fast-growing emerging markets such as Indonesia.