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Sir Martin Sorrell: 2012 and beyond

By news editor, on 22 January 2012

Adam Taylor, UCL Second year Economics undergraduate and President of UCL Jewish Society.

For the past two decades, the advertising business has been dominated by one man and the company that he built. WPP started in 1971 as a manufacturer of shopping baskets. In 1985, Sir Martin Sorrell bought a controlling stake in the company and, over the subsequent 30 years, transformed it through a series of audacious acquisitions into the largest advertising group in the world, with annual revenues of more than £9 billion. On 16 January, UCL Jewish Society hosted Sir Martin to address more than 200 people in the Cruciform Lecture Theatre.

The introduction promised the title of ‘2012 and beyond’, but Sir Martin was quick to announce, to much amusement, that he had no intention of sticking to this. Rather, he would open the floor immediately to questions.

Nonetheless, Sir Martin was unable to avoid the title as the first question asked was for his predictions for the year ahead. 2012, he revealed, would be a special kind of year for advertising. The quadrennial occurrence of the US elections, the Olympics and the European football championships would ensure plentiful demand for the services of WPP’s numerous companies.

Beyond 2012, he predicted, things could look a little more uncertain. The potential shift in economic power away from the western world and towards the emerging economies would provide new sources of business across the world.