Sir Martin Sorrell says the advertising industry reminds him of Burning Man, and should embrace ‘radical change’
- The spirit of creative disruption that characterizes Burning Man is akin to the changes sweeping through the advertising industry today, according to Sir Martin Sorrell.
- The head of S4 Capital, which just announced its second acquisition in the form of ad tech company MightyHive Tuesday morning, said that the advertising industry has to go through radical change.
- Sorrell also addressed how S4 has been going around pitching itself to investors, saying that S4 was like “a motor torpedo boat” versus legacy advertising businesses.
What does the advertising industry have in common with Burning Man? More than you’d think, according to Sir Martin Sorrell.
The spirit of creative disruption that characterizes the annual pop-up creativity festival is akin to the massive changes currently sweeping through the advertising industry, the former WPP chief said in a conversation with Business Insider UK editor-in-chief Jim Edwards at Business Insider’s IGNITION Conference in New York on Tuesday.
“There’s a strange sort of analogy between our industry and what you see at Burning Man,” Sorrell, who said he had attended the festival three times himself, told Edwards. “What it symbolizes to me is creative disruption.”
The head of S4 Capital, which just announced its second acquisition in the form of ad tech company MightyHive Tuesday morning, said that “there has to be a radical change” in the advertising industry.
“Some people refer to it evolutionary … I think it’s revolutionary,” he said. “The pace at which it is happening is so intense and so quick, that it’s revolutionary, and that’s one of the things that I experienced at WPP.”
With MightyHive – which specialises in programmatic advertising – and MediaMonks on its roster, S4 Capital can now seemingly offer full-service digital marketing capabilities. But the “acid test” for the firm would be whether it generates significant differentiation for its clients, Sorrell, who departed from WPP earlier this year, said.
“The acid test of S4 will not be acquiring MediaMonks, not acquiring or MightyHive … it will be whether the combination works effectively and whether it has correctly analyzed what clients want.”
Sorrell also shared anecdotes of how S4 has been going around pitching itself to investors, saying that the firm was at an advantage as it doesn’t face any of the challenges that other incumbent legacy advertising businesses inherently come with.
He recently told an investment institution, for instance, that with a legacy business, “it’s like trying to weld aircraft carriers together as opposed to a motor torpedo boat,” a thinly-veiled swipe at his former company WPP, which has been trying to simplify its various networks and revive growth by merging entities together.
That investor then apparently responded with his own version of the analogy, according to Sir Sorrell, saying that “when you put the two dead birds together, you may have four wings, but it doesn’t mean that you can fly.”
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