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Is Sorrell the Man AdLand's Been Waiting For?
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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Sir Martin Sorrell, as many of us know already, is the bossman of WPP, one of the largest advertising holding groups in the world. He's outspoken, he thinks highly of himself and his accomplishments, competitors admire him and hate him, and though the board doesn't want to pay Sorrell what he thinks he deserves, shareholders are sure glad he's there.

In order for AdLand to get its stuff together, it needs a face to represent it to the public. It needs someone with more muscle than the 4A's and more credibility than a 4A/ANA white paper to help form a message about where AdLand is going and the kind of people it needs to get there. The person needs to be both a visionary and a pragmatist; a dreamer and a doer. And finally, they can't be afraid to talk about the real issues in AdLand (we want people to read this, so we won't mention them).

Is that Sir Martin?

Based on the sheer size of WPP, he may be our industry's spokesperson whether we like it or not. The acquisition of AKQA, the biggest formerly independent digital shop, sent ruffles throughout the industry. Notice, too, that around the same time Facebook finished its deal with Face.com (face recognition software), and it was barely a blip on the radar. 

In a recent article in The Guardian, Sorrell was quoted that he thinks Facebook has tremendous potential for branding, but not too much for advertising. If one of us peons were to say that, we might get a retweet or two. But in the same article, the writer notes that WPP spends about 30% of all the money spent through advertising agencies worldwide. In easier language, for every dollar an ad agency spends on advertising for a client, 30 cents of that comes from a WPP shop.

So, if money talks, then we have to sit back and listen to Sir Martin.

Of course, many AdFolks are going to gripe about Sorrell, and no one should blame them. Sorrell makes an obscene amount of money in an industry that is notoriously known for the opposite.

If not Sorrell, then who? Who else has the gravitas and commands the respect of those outside the industry? We have a suggestion. We've just recently began keeping better tabs on him.

We'll nominate David Jones, from Havas.

There are reasons why we think Jones might be a better pick than Sorrell to represent the industry. First, although we know its shallow, Jones is a mere 46 years old (while Sorrell is a young 67). Second, he wrote the book Who Cares, Wins, which discussed why organizations that engage in good business will succeed in the long run. He, too, is making the run around the media circus and is developing an image. In a society that suffered from a financial collapse that involved greedy, intricate deals and tons of money, a man who supports corporate social responsibility and "good business" might be a good face for AdLand.

We know what you're thinking; yes, we are the same folks who are staunchly against holding companies. Those groups provide ways for those shops that should go under to stay in business and create an unlevel playing field for independent shops, especially the smaller ones. Would we be against a holding company that held nothing but small agencies? Who knows? That's another post. The point is that the two most-spoken-of and deepest pockets seem to be from holding companies.

Unless anyone else wants to step up, or has a better nominee.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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