The way of the di­nosaurs . . .

Financial Mail - - DIAMONDS & DOGS -

It’s hard to avoid the con­clu­sion that the global ad­ver­tis­ing in­dus­try is in much the sit­u­a­tion that pre­vailed when mastodon was bel­low­ing mer­rily to mastodon across the primeval swamp, un­aware of the im­mi­nent ar­rival of the me­te­orite that was to wipe out the big fel­las com­pletely.

The de­par­ture of Sir Martin Sor­rell af­ter more than 30 years at the helm of WPP marks the re­moval from the swamp of one of the might­i­est diplodocuses of the re­cent era, soft­ened some­what by the cheeky £200m in to­tal com­pen­sa­tion he has re­ceived in the past five years.

This is de­spite a per­for­mance by the com­pany that has been pedes­trian at best. The cur­rent share price is dou­ble the high it hit in 1987 — an ef­fort that only the most blink­ered of fans would sug­gest mer­its the ring­ing of church bells and the draft­ing of gi­ant cheques in grat­i­tude.

WPP’S em­pire owes more to the era of Don Draper than that of Mark Zucker­berg, boast­ing about 200,000 staff in 400 sep­a­rate busi­nesses in 112 coun­tries. It has taken a pound­ing on news that gi­ants such as Proc­ter & Gam­ble are slash­ing their bud­gets, cut­ting out mid­dle­men and get­ting closer to the end con­sumer.

The old-school model of run­ning huge cam­paigns, pil­ing out ads across print and TV in the vague hope that some­body will see them and buy a prod­uct, looks com­pletely nuts in an era in which the ped­dlers of big data can pro­vide a sniper’s-eye view of a con­sumer’s likely predilec­tions and then dish up ads ap­pro­pri­ately. The be­he­moths will have to adapt be­fore they’re eaten by dig­i­tal na­tives.

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