Sorrell: ‘Native advertising is not naive or ephemeral, it is critical to success’

Advertising Week Europe 2014: Producing native content and programmatic buying are the two biggest growth areas for WPP – and therefore for brands – according to Sir Martin Sorrell, whose business manages $75bn of media across the world.

Sir Martin Sorrell

Questioned by News Corp chief executive Robert Thomson at Advertising Week Europe today (31 March), Sorrell dismissed the idea that native content is naive or ephemeral. He claimed that WPP has been the biggest commissioner of programming in the UK in the last three or four years and added that creating good content is critical for agency and brand success.

But he warned that consumers would not be duped by content that appears to be editorial. ”The boundaries between editorial and commercial are breaking down. That’s fine as long as it is clear to the consumer,” he said.

In a wide-ranging discussion that took in topics including Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations, data and the success of News Corp’s paid content, Thomson said a privacy focus is good for business.

“[Online] ads are not just ads, they are data-gathering mechanisms,” said Thomson. “Being more focused on privacy is not bad for business it is good for business.”

Meanwhile Sorrell urged brands to consider privacy issues, citing the $5bn he said WPP clients had invested in developing data.

Three key learnings from Sorrell and Thomson at Advertising Week Europe

1.  Brands must not try to dupe consumers with native content. ”Mimicking editorial content is not clever. Readers are smart,” stated Thomson, adding that quality content is expensive, although native advertising is still at an early stage.

2.  Clients should not be concerned about the transparency (or not) of programmatic buying, said Sorrell saying when people question it ”I inwardly laugh”. He compared it to asking Google how its algorithms work.

3. Do not take a “legacy approach” to marketing. ”Creative departments [in agencies] still think that a 30 or 60 second TV ad scores most effectively and that is the thing that has to be disassembled,” said Sorrell.

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