On the face of it, WPP has nothing to complain about. Revenues in its first half rose 6.8% to £5.8bn, soaring 17.2% in its biggest market, North America. Pre-tax profits jumped 44.5% to £710m. So what’s Sir Martin Sorrell got to be gloomy about?
The founder and chief executive of the world’s biggest advertising company sees ‘grey swans’ aplenty - those semi-predictable but unlikely-to-pass catastrophes. And because of the prevalence of Sorrell’s favourite metaphor, ‘the apparent general industry optimism seems misplaced.’
WPP’s clients aren’t playing ball with the classic advertising ‘glass half-full’ attitude, the FTSE 100’s best-paid chief exec (who recently admitted to MT he was ‘hopeless at exams’ growing up) grumbled, pointing to ‘tepid GDP growth, low or no inflation and consequent lack of pricing power.’
As for that dark flock of birds: ‘oil price reductions, the Iranian nuclear "armistice" and the international currency wars have not been helpful black or grey swans.’ The looming prospect of the US Federal Reserve raising interest rates and the upcoming UK in-out EU referendum aren’t helping either, he said.
But you can’t keep an ad man down for long. Although 2015 ‘looks to be another demanding year,’ there’s going to be plenty of marketing fun to be had in 2016. The ‘maxi-quadrennial’ year (yup, that’s a thing) will be ‘enlivened by the visually-stunning Rio Olympics and Paralympics, by the less visually-stunning United States Presidential Election and, last but not least, the UEFA EURO 2016 Football Championships.’
He and his crew are also still 'unabashed bulls' when it comes to the tumultuous economies of China and Brazil. Don’t go changing, Martin - you're earning more than Roger Federer and only a touch less than Lionel Messi after all.