Why Sorrell says S4 Capital isn't actually snubbing creativity

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Martin Sorrell speaks at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, on Feb. 24, 2016.
Martin Sorrell speaks at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, on Feb. 24, 2016. Credit: Bloomberg

Martin Sorrell — whose S4 Capital recently began listing on the London Stock Exchange — asserted Tuesday his new venture isn't snubbing creativity even though its stated focus is in other areas.

The former leader of WPP, who left in April following an internal investigation into misconduct, explained his thinking during a discussion with AdExchanger executive editor Zach Rodgers at Programmatic I/O Tuesday afternoon in New York.

Sorrell said S4 Capital's focus is in the areas of content, first-party data and digital media buying and planning. When Rodgers asked, then, if creative was not a focus, Sorrell said that was an "easy shot."

"There are creative journalists, there are creative data analysts, there are creative media people, creative data people, there are even creative financial people," he said. "What we're talking about is creativity in the broadest sense of the world." He said that to say that creativity doesn't play an essential role in S4 Capital or a company like it is wrong.

He did say that decades ago the "big idea" may have been a majority of the business, but that today the "big idea" is essential but a smaller part of the business as distribution has become a bigger part of the equation. He added that even while building WPP, JWT, Ogilvy, Y&R and Grey were holding companies of their own. "Every one of them was a mini-WPP."

In July, S4 made its first major move in acquiring Dutch digital production company MediaMonks (and earning Sorrell the new title of Senior Monk).

Sorrell hinted that there is more to come, and quickly: "I'd like to do probably three things. We've done one. I'd like to do two more things fairly quickly. And then I think I'd probably like to rest."

In public appearances and interviews, Sorrell has previously described S4 Capital as a "peanut" in comparison to WPP, and said that when it comes to competing with his former company, "I have to admit that some people have peanut allergies."

But Sorrell claimed Tuesday he's already retired the nickname.

"We're not a peanut," he said Tuesday. "We're a coconut now … when and if we do our next thing, we'll be a coco du mer."

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