CEO Sorrell Says WPP Group Has A New Competitive Set

sir-martinWPP Group CEO Sir Martin Sorrell takes an increasingly broad view of his competitors. In addition to the company's two largest agency holding company rivals, Interpublic and Publicis/Omnicom (the future Publicis Omnicom Group), and smaller players Havas Media and Dentsu/Aegis, he says the company now competes broadly with Internet giants, researchers and data firms.

"We compete against Dunnhumby," WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell offered by way of example during an appearance today at the IAB MIXX conference. Dunnhumby is majority owned by UK-based retail chain Tesco.

"It's the retailers who have the connection or thinking to develop the data," he said. Both Dunnhumby and WPP want to capture those retailers' point of sale or ecommerce data and leverage it into digital media plans.

WPP also must increasingly factor research firms into its competitive set -- companies like Germany's GFK, Ipsos, Nielsen and comScore. WPP may feel more competitive with these companies than its holding company brethren owing to its ownership of Kantar.

And then there are the consumer Internet giants. Google, which Sorrell once famously called out as a "frienemy," has now morphed into a "friendlier frienemy." That's thanks in large part to its clout. Sir Martin said the share of WPP's spend that Google commands is on pace to surpass $2.5 billion this year. (It was $2 billion in 2012.)

And this dynamic is unlikely to change soon. Google has extended its lead as a media seller, he said, thanks to growth in mobile search and video.

"Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Intstagram … none of them to date are as well organized as Google," he said. Google's senior management talent is another asset. "Google have seeded a lot of companies, yet they have an enormously strong bench."

Harsh Words For POG

Also during his comments at MIXX, Sorrell took a few predictable digs at the proposed merger of his chief rivals, Omnicom Group and Publicis Groupe.

One was on the data rationale for the deal: "'We're going to have a big data platform,' they say. That's obfuscation for the regulators. The only place where there are scaled benefits is media buying."

He also pointed out the companies face a quandary with their trading desk units – typically a shared resource across the holding company. With two desks – Accuen and Vivaki AOD – there is important work to do, but planning for the future is difficult until the deal closes.

"They're in regulatory period where they can't talk to one another," he said. "If they did they'd blow each other up. It would be funny if it wasn't so serious."

 

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