What the Holding Company Chiefs Are Saying

Sorrell, Wren, Roth, Levy and Nadal Give Their Outlook on the Strengths of Their Ad Networks and Clients

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Martin Sorrell, WPP Group chief executive

Martin Sorrell
Photo: Tom Stockill
"Obviously, we are shocked by the fall of such significant and powerful financial institutions. However, the shocks are taking place currently in financial systems, and we have to see what the impact will be in the short term on the real world. To date, there has been some tightening in the U.S. and Western Europe, but nowhere near the impact that we are seeing in the financial-services industry. There is no doubt that these shocks to the financial system must have an impact on consumer and client confidence, but it will take some time to assess how big this impact will be. [These are] early days to come to rash conclusions. It seems to me that the media are too focused on instant responses, when time will tell."

John Wren, president-CEO, Omnicom Group

John Wren
"The moves in the stock market during the last two weeks are unprecedented. While government intervention is required, it's rarely very good when the government gets involved in business. Despite the welcome stabilization of the financial markets, the underlying economic weakness in the U.S. and Europe continues to be a concern."

Michael Roth, chairman-CEO, Interpublic Group of Cos.

Michael Roth
"The volatility in the financial markets is clearly creating uncertainty for both marketers and consumers. This will require us to focus even more closely on helping our clients navigate through this environment and at the same time managing our business efficiently. What we are seeing is that client sectors and geographic markets are being affected differently. And while the macro environment continues to be in flux, we believe that our diversification, both internationally and in terms of marketing disciplines, should provide some degree of protection. We remain on track to deliver on our 2008 financial objectives."

Maurice Levy, chairman-CEO of Publicis Groupe

Maurice Levy
Photo: Julio Piatti
"It is changing by the hour. You've seen in a few days the stock price of Goldman Sachs go down by 40%, and today some banks are 26% up. People are panicking. Real estate is seriously affected, there is a credit crunch, and it is definitely affecting the real economy.

There is the U.S., the Western world and the fast-growing markets. The U.S. is seriously affected. Western countries, especially Europe, are going to be affected. Emerging markets are mildly affected. Their growth is still very strong. India is in a recession with 7% growth instead of 9%, and China will have 9% growth instead of 10%, and that's not really a crisis.

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Will the Collapse of Storied Financial Institutions Be Felt in the Marketing and Media Worlds?
Our clients are changing their plans by the day according to what they know. I'm struck by the fact that they are calm and not panicking at all. In previous recessions, clients that have cut budgets have lost market share they've never won again.

We are seeing some signs of a relatively modest slowdown, and some sectors are more affected, particularly cars and financial services, and the rest are being very cautious.

We still see growth, and we believe the situation can change very rapidly. According to conversations with our clients -- and I'm speaking to a lot of CEOs -- I feel they're addressing the current situation with a lot of calm and not making harsh, brutal decisions.

[At Publicis] we're being very cautious. We're working very hard at generating growth and protecting margins and making sure we're not ourselves panicking. We're cautious on spending and investment, but we don't think we should stop and wait."

Miles Nadal, chairman-CEO, MDC Partners

Miles Nadal
"The current economic situation translates into an increased focus on measurability and return on marketing investment. As more offline dollars shift to online and direct response, firms that can make brands famous and grow clients' business will pick up additional market share."
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