Former WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell has vowed the industry hasn’t seen the last of him, following his resignation last month, following undisclosed allegations of personal misconduct while he was in charge.
Speaking at the Techonomy event in New York yesterday, the 73-year-old said he had no plans to retire during an on-stage Q&A session.
“I am going to start again,” he said when pressed about his future. “I’m not going to go into voluntary or involuntary retirement.
“The first thing I’m going to do is tell my son I’ll call him back,” said Sorrell, referring to a mobile phone call that was frequently interrupting his talk. “Then I’m going to start again.”
“I love the industry. It was serendipity when I met the Saatchi brothers in 1975. Over the years since then that we’ve operated in the industry, I’ve found it an extremely attractive industry to continue a career in.”
According to media reports on the event, Sorrell was pressed on his plans but offered little suffice to say it would be media and tech focused.
On his sudden departure from the company he founded, he said: “After being extracted, I can see much more clearly where there are the growth pieces and where there are the challenges.
“I don’t want to say the traditional ad business isn’t capable of reinvention. It is capable of reinvention. And it will be. All the people running holding companies understand this. They’re not silly.”
He added that there were a number of “legacy” businesses at WPP (JWT is 100 years old, as an example) and they needed to start to bring technology, data and content much closer together for their clients.
“There are legacy parts of WPP and there are new wave parts,” he said. “Clearly, the growth of the latter is extremely important. And the traditional parts are sometimes much more difficult to deal with.”
On the ongoing threat from the likes of Facebook and Google to traditional ad spends, he added: “The fundamental question is, are they tech companies or media companies?” he said. “I’ve always had the view that Facebook and Google are media companies. With power comes responsibility.
“The one threat to them is Amazon.These two areas of advertising and search I think are where Amazon really will rattle the cage,” he concluded.