SUNDAY 15 APR 2018 10:11 AM


The word Titan is overused. But in the case of Martin Sorrell, it is appropriate and accurate. If anything, it is inadequate actually.

Sorrell changed our industry. In fact, he defined it. And he shaped it. Take a moment please; think of the people who have been central in making PR what it is today. Whose face do you picture? There are a few contenders. Edelman. Burson. Golin. Chadlington. Others, I’m sure. But Sorrell’s is there unquestionably. 

The sheer chutzpah of taking a shell company and turning it into the giant that it is today must surely be unparalleled. 

Because let’s be clear: WPP is the creation of Martin Sorrell. Since I was a child, my favourite film has been the 1970s hero pastiche that is Waterloo. In it, Napoleon tells his number two what ‘the throne’ is: ‘My dreams. My will’. That is very much how Sorrell built WPP. When people say that one person can’t make a company, I say they should look at WPP.

Martin first spoke for the PRCA at our national conference in 2009. It was the first time I’d met him. I was expecting the usual chit chat. I was wrong. 

Instead, he interrogated me – and I use that word deliberately and precisely – on our margins. On our service offering. On our customer base. He’d taken the time to download our accounts and to give them a forensic analysis. How many speakers do that? 

Our industry has changed beyond all recognition. Over the past thirty years. It’s become central rather than peripheral to every section of business and society. It grows in every region of the world, in every year, and normally by about ten percent.

It’s the industry of the future. CEOs invest in it because they recognise that corporate reputation is central to their future and that of their companies.

Marketing spend has moved to it.

We are winning the fight for who owns digital.

Our future is bright, and brighter with every successive year.

And one of the key reasons this is so is how Sorrell has shaped our industry. Quite frankly, as he leaves WPP, we all owe him a debt of gratitude. 

Francis Ingham is the director general of the PRCA and the chief executive of ICCO

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