Marketing magazine, Ad Age's international partner in Canada, talked with WPP Chief Executive Martin Sorrell about his acquisition of Toronto-based Taxi and how his holding company will help Taxi grow internationally -- and what Sir Martin thinks of Canada.
Marketing: In negotiating WPP's acquisition of Taxi, you met personally with Rob Guenette and Paul Lavoie. What did you discuss?
Sorrell: We talked about the reasons for what we were doing and planning. Certain of our people have known the Taxi people for many years and admire what they've done. [Lavoie and Guenette] wanted help in building their business outside Canada, not just New York or Amsterdam, but elsewhere. They've got good relationships with clients inside and outside Canada, so we felt [the deal] made sense. They have a very strong creative reputation, and we're in a position to help them. It's not easy for companies their size to build their businesses beyond their frontiers. We've seen that with other examples, both inside and outside Canada. ... We want to continue to build in Canada and beyond. A lot of people talk about doing it, but the practical realities at times like these make it not easy -- strategically or financially. We've got some ideas on how to do that.
Marketing: Taxi now resides inside WPP's Y&R Brands. How are they settling in?
Sorrell: We've already had some examples in the first three or four days of Taxi starting to develop relationships with other parts of the group who either have opportunities or challenges within Canada or beyond. ... You shouldn't think of Y&R Brands as being their sole [interaction]. You should view Y&R Brands as its portal into WPP.
Marketing: Taxi aside, what's your take on the Canadian marketplace?
Sorrell:In the last few years, Canada has been similar to Australia in that it's an economy in two parts. There's the normal economy, or what some may call the real economy, and then there's the resource-driven economy. Canada's benefitted significantly from being extremely well-run from a government point of view and financial point of view, not subject to some of the horrors we've had to deal with in other parts of the West. I know [CEO] John Rose at Rolls Royce thinks Canada is a shining example of the way things should be managed. We've always had a high degree of respect for [Canada]. [With the Taxi acquisition], our operations in Canada [have been brought up to] US$350 million; they're not small. That's out of US$15 billion worldwide, so it's about 2% to 3 % of our worldwide revenues; in the scale of things that's not enormous, but we have significant business there. We will be the biggest marketing serves group in Canada by a long way. This adds to our growth and strength.