Cannes Lions

Martin Sorrell to speak onstage at Cannes

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Martin Sorrell at Stanford University in 2017.
Martin Sorrell at Stanford University in 2017. Credit: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Recently departed WPP CEO Martin Sorrell will join New Yorker writer Ken Auletta onstage at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in June, Ad Age has confirmed.

The discussion—set to occur at noon on Friday, June 22 on the festival's main stage—will be a "candid discussion about the marketing industry issues of today," according to Cannes Lions organizers.

Sorrell is also appearing as a speaker for the Berlin School of Creative Leadership's Cannes Creative Leaders program, though that is not open to general attendees.

Although Cannes will provide the most prominent stage that Sorrell has taken since he suddenly stepped down in mid-April following an internal investigation into misconduct, ending a 33-year career at the world's largest agency holding company, it won't be the first. Sorrell spoke at the Technonomy NYC conference last week, where he said he doesn't plan to go into "voluntary or involuntary retirement" and plans to "start again."

He said he had been "extracted" from WPP, talked about the future of the industry and spoke about why it's such an attractive industry to have a career.

"It's something that I enjoy," he said. "The people I find engaging. Sometimes they can be difficult. In fact, the better the people, the more difficult they are."

Auletta's new book, "Frenemies: The Epic Disruption of the Ad Business (and Everything Else") is set to be released in June. He discussed the book onstage at the 4A's Accelerate conference in Miami last month with Horizon Media CEO Bill Koenigsberg, who said the book gives readers a "ringside seat" into the ad world's complexities and players. Auletta said he interviewed hundreds of people (absent Omnicom chief executive John Wren, who declined, he said) in researching the book.

"I think he captured it damn well," Koenigsberg said. But, "I'll tell you what annoyed me a little bit about the book. Everybody in this room thinks we bring significant value to our clients. That is our purpose. And the book talked about the complexity of our industry, but it really didn't touch upon the contributions in a really big way that I feel this industry makes. I felt that was a miss."

"I would argue that the testimonial that you're seeking is actually throughout the book," Auletta said. "The book is predicated on the notion that without advertising—and therefore the people that create the ad messages—the whole media ecosystem collapses. And I believe that."

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