Advertising Week

Sorrell on Rentrak/ComScore, Creativity and Changing the Name of Advertising Week

Advertising Is Back? Not During This Advertising Week Session

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Martin Sorrell
Martin Sorrell Credit: Dario Pignatelli/Bloomberg
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Perhaps the most notable thing about a session titled "Pardon the Interruption: Advertising Is Back" held Wednesday morning at Advertising Week in New York was that, between two panels consisting of eight people, advertising was barely touched upon. Indeed, WPP Chief Executive Martin Sorrell, who participated in a fireside chat with Medialink Chairman-CEO Michael Kassan during the first half hour, suggested changing the name of Advertising Week.

"It's something else week, but it's not Advertising Week."

And while advertising did not make a comeback during the session, Mr. Sorrell and Mr. Kassan didn't disappoint a packed room at the Times Center during a discussion that ranged from the previous day's news of ComScore acquiring Rentrak to redefining creativity to reviemageddon.

Mr. Kassan kicked off the conversation by broaching the subject of the ComScore-Rentrak merger, which happened to be announced the day before Mr. Sorrell was due to speak on two Advertising Week panels. "Great timing. Excellent," Mr. Sorrell said, before adding. "Accidentally on purpose."

WPP will have 16% in the combined firm but will not have a seat on the board. This fits in with what Mr. Sorrell called WPP's aversion to the "plonker strategy" of just swooping in and scooping up entire companies. While WPP will not have a seat on the board, he said "it's fair to say we tried to encourage them to get together."

Why? Because "clients and media owners want better measurement." Later in the session he noted that clients wouldn't let Rupert Murdoch or Les Moonves validate media buys, so why would they think of letting Google and Facebook -- companies that are "masquerading as technology companies, but at their heart they're really media owners" -- do it.

The ComScore-Rentrak tie-up will provide a "a very good currency not just online, but offline, too," he said.

It wouldn't have been a Martin Sorrell event without him throwing a little shade at the competition. In what was a not-so-veiled reference to Nielsen, he noted that monopolies "breed complacency."

"And arrogance," Mr. Kassan added.

"You said it, not me," Mr. Sorrell replied.

Not that he's opposed to dominating a field.

When Mr. Kassan asked about WPP agency Ogilvy participating in Coca-Cola Co.'s media planning review against some other WPP-owned media shops, Mr. Sorrell said, "I don't mind how many horses we have in the race as long as we have all the horses."

He did caution people against making a trend out of the Coke review, noting that different clients have different needs. He also said that reviewmageddon is putting a "tremendous strain on talent" and that incumbents in some cases "almost have to have two teams."

During the discussion, he also pointed out that the definition of creativity has to be broadened. It's not the sole domain of the creative department in the ad agencies, he said, adding that "This attitude in our industry that traditional creative is king has to change."

The second session spent some time addressing that topic. Medialink President and COO Wenda Harris Millard led a discussion with AOL President Bob Lord, IHeartMedia CMO Gayle Troberman, AT&T Adworks President Rick Welday, Fox Networks Group President of Ad Sales Toby Byrne and Ed Menecheschi, CMO of Conde Nast and president of Conde Nast Media Group.

Mr. Menecheschi was of the opinion that "story was king." Mr. Welday noted that "results are king." And Mr. Byrne countered with "We don't live in a monarchy anymore."

The entire panel agreed that idea of creativity needed to be broadened to include data and strategy and interactivity and other concepts.

But they didn't discuss the comeback of advertising either -- and ran out of time before coming up with a new name for Advertising Week.