Sorrell tells TV execs to move faster

RTS: Free-to-air television is as “finely balanced” as the newspaper business, chief executive of advertising group WPP Sir Martin Sorrell has claimed.

Speaking at the Royal Television Society’s Cambridge Convention, Sorrell said: “Newspapers never move fast enough to embrace digital. TV, if we are honest, never moves fast enough.”

Sorrell told TV executives to “watch out”, predicting that the proportion of advertisers’ spend going to online channels is likely increase from 17% to around a third as consumers spend more time online. Television must take advantage of internet-connected platforms and behavioural data in order to respond, he argued.

“There is a disconnect between what consumers are doing and what clients are doing. That needs to change. I think it will change when the next generation of marketers comes through.”

Sorrell also said that media owners’ relationships with advertisers and the agencies that represent them need to become less “adversarial” with many brands feeling free-to-air television has a “stranglehold” over media budgets.

“There is, in their minds, a view that media inflation has cost them a lot, and media prices have gone up faster than in other areas.”

Despite TV advertising rebounding strongly since the recession, and WPP’s TV revenues performing better than forecast in the first half of 2011, Sorrell said that business is expected to be “a bit soggier” in the back end of the year. He told media owners that they need to consolidate and offer advertisers more commercial opportunities through sponsored programming, interactivity and ecommerce.

Sorrell raised “fundamental doubts” about the threat from social networks, however, saying they have limited advertising potential for brands.

“If you attempt to interrupt what is a social interaction with a commercial message, you are going to run into difficulties.”

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