Martin Sorrell: Facebook to be WPP's No. 2 media relationship by 2017

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At the Cannes event on the future of digital campaigns, PepsiCo president, global beverage group, Brad Jakeman also hailed ad blockers as "the best thing that has happened to this industry"

Facebook will be WPP's second-biggest media relationship by 2017, Martin Sorrell predicted at a panel session in Cannes Lions festival last week.

He was speaking at an event held by the The Wall Street Journal on News UK’s boat and in conjunction with The&Partnership.

Sorrell said that last year, on behalf of its clients, WPP spent $4 billion with Google and $1 billion with Facebook.

Sorrell, who met with Google during the week, said this spend would increase to around $5 billion to $5.5 billion this year.

But WPP’s predicted spend on Facebook had rocketed by 68% to $1.7 billion this year.

If Facebook continued on its current trajectory, Sorrell said, "I would guess that Facebook will be our second-biggest media relationship after Google, probably by 2017."

Last year, WPP's second biggest media relationship was News Corp/Fox, with whom it spent around $2.5 billion.

The discussion also covered the issue of measurement of digital campaigns — and how it was still inadequate.

PepsiCo president, global beverage group, Brad Jakeman said the methodology of measurement has not changed in the past 50 years. He said he recently looked at one of the old brand-equity questionnaires that Pepsi used to use "for shits and giggles."

Jakeman said, "I was terrified. It might as well have been Survey Monkey. I thought, 'Wow — we made billion dollar decisions based on this data, which is antiquated at best.' Metrics have not kept pace with the changes."

Advertising not a direct sales technique
In fact, Jakeman argued, "Ad blocking is the best thing that has happened to this industry" because it will drive the industry to act more like entertainment brands.

"I don’t believe that the role of advertising is to sell things, it’s to make things more saleable."

He said it was incredibly hard to demonstrate how an ad directly led to product being bought: "Consumers don’t see a car ad and then jump into a dealership. It’s a multi-faceted decision."

Jakeman said the industry could learn from Hollywood and Bollywood, who "have always focused on producing amazing content that consumers want to seek out, not screen out."

Arguing that the industry had created the current situation by producing poor advertising, Jakeman said the old systems had allowed clients to be lazy. "We just write a check. We fool ourselves that people love [what we are producing]. We’ve brought this [ad blocking] upon ourselves.

"This festival celebrates 0.5% of the work that got made," he said. "The other 99.5% of the work is generally crap. Most of it is digital landfill — crap content that gets produced quickly and cheaply and doesn’t connect. We’re living in an age where consumers just don’t tolerate that."

"It’s a great wakeup call. It will drive us to think like entertainment brands in how we get consumers to fall in love with our brands. It’s going to be painful for a while, but ultimately it will take our industry to a better place," he said.

What Jakeman believes agencies can help with is storytelling — in particular, helping to get consistent stories.

The idea that it does is harmful, he believes. "It’s incredibly naïve, it takes us to content that is incredibly left brain — like direct-response ads."

Instead brands should focus on creating content that consumers love. This, he said, is similar to the early days of advertising, when brands were not producing 30-second TV ads, but were sponsoring soap operas.

He believes that there will be a shift from brands buying space from media and tech platforms, to selling content to them — one reason why Pepsi has set up its own content studio.

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