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What Sir Martin Sorrell’s Clients Worry About

October 10, 2013

Tuning into GroupM’s Next Conference today, it was great to see just how far video conferencing had come and it was now possible to beam Sir Martin Sorrell anywhere in the world, without any audio or visual delay.

This is clearly a disarming thought for anyone pitching against a WPP shop.

Sorrell was broadcasting live from Turkey and he basically rattled off a long list of issues that he regarded as client challenges and logged off.

While it was far from an opportunity to engage and interact with one of the world’s most powerful communication executives, it was interesting to hear what was on his mind and the issues he felt were potentially challenging to clients. I would give it the more speculative “What might be keeping clients up at night?” list

Here’s his list with some color commentary added.

1. The Power Shift from the US

Companies coming to grips with the realities that their business is growing much faster in the East and South, than in the homeland.

2. Overcapacity

There is simply too much being produced and not enough homes for it to go to.

3. The Threat of Disintermediation

Every legacy business is faced with the reality that some smart digital start-up could render them powerless.

4. The Growth of Retail Power

Retailers are simply getting more and more powerful and as a result manufacturers are taking the direct to consumer channel opportunity very seriously.

5. Communicating Internally

Corporate leaders appear to be challenged on what the company’s story is and how to tell it to an internal audience.

6. The Emergence of New Corporate Structures

Organizations are changing structures to take advantage of the new world order- for some this leading to greater centralization.

7. The Finance Department Rules

Finance and procurement are gaining more power inside organization to the detrement of the marketing function.

8. The Growth of Government

Government is stepping in and stepping up into the vacuum and as a result they need communications help, which obviously presents opportunity for a global communications group, but perhaps more of a legislative nightmare for some client categories.

9 . Social Responsibility

No longer and after-thought, it’s not about a separate CSR department and strategy- companies are making social responsibility integral to their planning and vision

 10. Consolidation

Across industries and countries consolidation is very much a reality. New private equity models and the low cost of capital are driving this.

It seems like a pretty good list from a man who clearly sees the world from a 30,000ft perspective.

Obviously, there are some interesting omissions from his list, but they might be inter-related to some of his bigger themes; but here are a few that could be on there;

Accountability- The promise of Big Data

Consumer- Centricity- The desire for most companies to get closer to their customers

Innovation- An overused word, but surely essential for corporate survival

Powerful Ideas- Companies need compelling narratives to breakthrough


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