He may have long since departed his beloved WPP, however, Sir Martin Sorrell still has many a sage word about the company he founded and the advertising world in general.
Since leaving WPP in April under a cloud, the 73-year-old has taken a number of potshots at WPP’s direction, in particular, a lot of the creative agencies he believes aren’t keeping up with the times.
In an interview with the BBC over the weekend, Sorrell – who it’s often said took the creative out of creative agencies – lambasted those who still pined for the good old days.
“There are new forms of creativity in things like data analysis, in digital transformation. People look back at the Don Draper/madmen-era with rose-tinted glasses,” he said.
Far from retiring, Sorrell has begun his latest venture into the advertising world, S4 Capital, which recently purchased digital production company MediaMonks for $A472 million.
When asked if the new venture was a form of revenge on WPP, Sorrell said: “There may be a bit of that – but what I’m most interested in is building a business to scale. Some people found things and move on, others build businesses, very few can do both.”
In the far-reaching interview, Sorrell also denied that he’d misused company funds while at the helm of WPP and described allegations that he’d slept with prostitutes on the company credit card as “Not true. There was an investigation and it turned up nothing.”
However, he did admit that he’d often micromanaged WPP, a company with some 200,000 employees globally. “Founding a company is the nearest a man can come to giving birth. Emotionally rather than physically obviously – but it’s your baby.
“I asked myself this question – who is really looking out for this company? And the answer is, no one apart from me. And by the way, micro-management is not a fault,” he said.
Meanwhile, in an interview with the UK’s The Sunday Times yesterday, Sorrell branded WPP’s decision to sell its stake in the digital marketing company Globant as “bordering on negligent” and claimed there was no one left to “look out for” WPP now he’d left.
“The one thing I’d criticise them for so far, and I would be very aggressive about it, is the sale of the Globant stake. I think it is bordering on negligent,” he said.
“There really is nobody looking out for WPP. Founders have different attitudes to managers . . . founders have a personal commitment to the company they founded, which it is very difficult to replicate,” he said.