This jam-packed session had queues almost to Picadilly Circus! It really dawned on me what a privilege it is to have had 1:1 meetings with Sir Martin and to be supported by him. At 70 years old, he is around the same age as my mother, a woman who I admire the most. Read further about the people who most inspire him.
Who are the big spenders of tomorrow?
Probably the big spenders of today (cue laughter as the session would then be over). I do think we need to understand the power of Chinese technology. Spoke to Hugo Barra and XAOIMI mobile provider in China run by a 24 year old valued at $45 billion and is the brand leader in China with an Android platform. Bear in mind MSFT bought Nokia for $7 billion. Believe they have a superior product to Apple and now expanding into India, Indonesia and Brazil. Every Friday 500k software engineers suggest improvements to the software in a crowd-sourcing style.
It is remarkable that Chinese CEO's have a better understanding of the web. Suning is the leading retailer redoing their stores. We think they copy and steal but we should "watch out". Bloomberg is a new technology business but a legacy business like Reuters have had to adapt. The Chinese have gone straight to online. AS WPP, our third largest business is now in China with revenue of $1.6 billion. What we've done, is adapt.
Let's talk about French friends….
It's become an obsession which is unhealthy from his point of view. His attitude changed when he lost out on Cordiant. Last year was a really difficult year for him in that he lost out on a grand vision. Interestingly, if he had stuck out a bit longer it might have been successful.
WPP is not an agency or a conglomerate….
When GroupM does its incremental analysis of the market, it's still a G2 world. Whereas China is still bigger. India is the star of the BRICS with double digit growth. Russia and Brazil have trouble. The geographical thing is easy to figure out but the technology bucket is difficult. We are worried about the next garage startup (like how Google started). The potential disruptive change is the next big issue.
Advertising has changed…
They should change the name from Advertising Week to Communication & Marketing Services Week. Creativity is not just what Don Draper does but there are creative scientists. The driverless car was developed by 10 people in 10 years at Google, whereas at Geneva Motor show there is hardly any technology visible in cars. Maybe we should call this "Paranoia Week" – I lie awake at night thinking of the disruption to this approach. The worst thing is that someone comes up with a closed system that no one has access to. Our industry is a trillion $ industry – $500 million traditional and $500 million in digital. There have been 3 moments of disruption in the WPP history since starting 30 years (e.g. 92 dot com boom). However when there has been disruption, WPP grows BECAUSE we have had access to the disruption. This is why we invest in Flonet (?) in Sweden, Appnexus, Comscore etc.
We still haven't fully figured out mobile. There will be some brainbox in Bangalore or Sao Paolo that comes up with the next disruption. Israel is also an interesting place to watch. It's a tiny country but has a dense population of Russian PHD's.
What do we do as WPP to survive and thrive?
We have organic growth of 8%. At this point Sir Martin goes on to make a point: Our industry doesn't report transparently and it's about time that you as Bloomberg asked people to disclose. Bloomberg replies that 'people won't tell us' but Sir Martin says "It's your responsibility to delve deeper". We do this through acquisition, getting traditional business to become digital and also experiment in addition to organic growth which the market values most highly. Omnicom has a massive barter business and nobody knows how they account for it as they are trading inventory. How do they measure it and report on it? No disclosure! It's a serious issue.
At the moment, growth is tepid, clients don't have pricing power, there 0% inflation in UK and cost + efficiency are king. The key issue is that clients are looking at their boots and not the horizon. We have to shift the debate away from finance. Worst example is that we have been asked by several clients to accept unlimited liability for indirect breach of IP. I am not prepared to accept as the whole company could come down.
Business is …fun. Sir Martin wouldn't be doing this at the age of 70 if it wasn't. It's more interesting than ever. Our business has geographic and technological complexity. There is oversupply in the world, so we are about creating differentiation.
Do you take it personally that people go on about your compensation?
We have 180,000 who work in 111 countries who depend on WPP for their livelihood and I make zero apologies for that. That's what the system is about. I started this company. We have created $10 billion of incremental value.
Who inspires you?
My father inspires me and I had a deep relationship with him. My dad knew Jules Thorn, a holocaust survivor who created fluorescent bulbs and was behind colour TV. Also, Arnold Weinstock, who married the boss's daughter. He regrets having been too conservative doing lots of JV's and now we know that they fail. Of course, you can also admire Bill Gates, Cheryl Sandberg etc.
What's your Outlook on British economy after election?
I am not bullish post-election.