Martin Sorrell on Mobile: 'We Haven't Adapted'

Yet Another Conversation at Mobile World Congress Where Industry Execs Lament Lack of Mobile Focus

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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: Pau Barrena/Bloomberg

If there's one thing that's become clear at Mobile World Congress, it's that marketers have a lot of work to do on mobile.

Industry execs grappled with ad blocking on a panel on Tuesday, and before that a panel talked about how the industry has failed to create trust in the security of consumer information and offer value to people when it comes to mobile. Now Martin Sorrell, chief of WPP, in a talk with Recode's Ina Fried, said that "the mobile revolution hasn't registered yet with companies" and there's an underinvestment in mobile in the marketing industry.

"We haven't adapted," said Mr. Sorrell. "When people talk about creativity in our industry, they're talking about Don Draper. They're not talking about the new definitions. Believe it or not, people inside media agencies are creative. Software engineers are creative ... It's the definition of it -- we haven't contextualized it correctly yet.

Mr. Sorrell added in mobile and digital, the definition of creativity hasn't been "contextualized" as effectively as it should be and that's why the industry is seeing an increased focus in ad blocking. What Mr. Sorrell means, presumably, is that the industry hasn't thought about what creativity on mobile could really look like, and instead the industry has just relied on inundating people with annoying ads that leaves people with the desire to ad block.

He said that some of this may be because mobile requires a different creative approach, in part because it's a much smaller screen. He said measurement is another issue and that "people are not sure of the ROI" and this is a very important thing. Indeed, measurement and attribution are big issues in mobile advertising, particularly as it relates to linking online mobile searches and behaviors with offline purchases and practices.

"The essential problem is that big companies are not thinking about mobile in the right way," said Mr. Sorrell. They're thinking of it as an extension of digital, just a way to reach consumers. They're not thinking of it in a way that changes their businesses or adds values in a way they weren't able to do previously."

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