Ad Man Sees Big Bucks In “Series of Tubes”

Portfolio is running a breezy interview with Sir Martin, CEO of WPP Group. Here’s one bit of substance for you to choke on.

Q. What will your industry look like in five years?
A. It’s going to be more dominated by PCs, internet, video content, social networking. Our competitors say it’s about creative ideas. We are totally in agreement with that. But they’re missing the trick–that is, the application of technology to our businesses. It’s not about building server farms or hiring PhDs or competing with Google and Microsoft. It’s about applying the sort of things that Google and Microsoft and Yahoo and AOL and Facebook and Flickr and Wikipedia and everybody else have to our business. And I think we understand that far better than anybody else.

The application of technology to our business…let’s examine that for a minute. If McLuhan was right and “the medium is the message,” then Sir Martin is right to pursue the infrastructure prize. He’s already witnessed upstarts like Google win HUGE by owning the platform, or media, as the case may be.
Is it wrong for a company that’s primary service is to make ads for clients to also own the platform where ads are served? I don’t think so. Where Sir Martin’s argument falls down in my estimate is his belief that WPP can do it all–compete creatively with the Wieden’s and Bartle Bogle’s of the ad world and co-own the channel where said ads are run.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.