Martin Sorrell's 2017 Forecast for WPP: Much Like 2016

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Sir Martin Sorrell
Sir Martin Sorrell Credit:  WPP

Despite global political turmoil and marketers' uncertainty about the future, Martin Sorrell said 2017 may look much like this year, at least for WPP.

"Indications are for a similar year to 2016," said WPP's CEO, speaking at UBS' Media & Communications Conference on Tuesday morning. He added that WPP execs will be reviewing plans for next year over the next two weeks in New York. (The 2016 outlook for WPP was for organic revenue and net sales growth of over 3%, he said).

"The impact of Trump, it's so difficult to figure out," Mr. Sorrell said. "You go to bed one night and there's a phone call from Taiwan. My bet would be this is better than people expected for the U.S. economy. Clearly Trump is good for business, and I would say that's definitely so in the short to medium term."

He said the longer term, and the impact on the rest of the world of a Donald Trump presidency, is less clear.

"What we gain on U.S. roundabouts and we lose on international swings, I don't know," he said.

He noted that one Chinese conglomerate today cut back on its U.S. investment. "Trumpian politics causes some issues there [in China]," he said. "Don't underestimate … the sensitivity of the Chinese. If American and Chinese relationships deteriorate, that doesn't bode well for multinationals in China."

In addition, local Chinese brands have become formidable competitors to U.S.-based multinationals as they have moved beyond the initial stage of copying and developed a better understanding of branding, he said.

Elsewhere in the world, he said that the U.K.'s Brexit vote to leave the European Union "initially has had a limited effect on the economy. That will start next year."

Upcoming elections in Europe will continue to pit mainstream politicians against populist forces—and in the case of France, the racist, far-right National Front party of Marine Le Pen—and create further uncertainty.

"An uncertain environment is the enemy of decision making, and an uncertain environment is the enemy of growth," Mr. Sorrell said.

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