Martin Sorrell: Magazines, Newspapers Deserve More Credit for Effectiveness

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Martin Sorrell at Cannes.
Martin Sorrell at Cannes.

Music to the ears of people who buy and sell print ads: Martin Sorrell, the chief executive officer at WPP, says newspapers and magazines might not be getting the credit they deserve.

According to a report in the Times of London, Mr. Sorrell told an audience this week at a Broadcasting Press Guild breakfast in the U.K.: "There is an argument at the moment going on about the effectiveness of newspapers and magazines, even in their traditional form, and maybe they are more effective than people give them credit [for]."

Mr. Sorrell cited research showing that traditional media is often more engaging than digital content. His remarks are important because WPP, which owns media-buying powerhouse GroupM, steers billions in advertising budgets to various media.

A report in the trade magazine Campaign noted that:

His comments... mark a major U-turn on a presentation he gave at an Enders Analysis event just a week earlier, when he had once again referred to Mary Meeker's time spent versus media spend analysis that showed (US) press commands just 5 per cent of time but 20 per cent of spend.

In recent years, the company has diverted money away from print towards digital media. According to The Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Sorrell has pushed WPP more into digital, and it remains one of the company's strategic priorities, accounting for more than a third of the group's revenue in 2014. WPP projects new media will make up 40% to 45% of its revenue over the next five years.

Last year, Google fetched the largest share of WPP's media investment with a whopping $2.9 billion, the company revealed during a webcast with investors earlier this month. Spending on Facebook climbed to $640 million from $439 million the previous year. And in 2014, WPP tripled the amount it spends on Twitter to $150 million.

The investment in digital media is taking its toll on print. Last year, ad spending on consumer and business-to-business magazines in the U.S. fell 5.1% compared with 2013, according to research from analytics firm Kantar Media (which WPP owns). Newspaper ad spending dropped 10% year over year, Kantar said.

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