WPP's Sorrell: LUV is in the air

Sir Martin Sorrell has warned of a 'LUV-shaped recession'. As we all know, luv hurts...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

The boss of ad giant WPP, which includes JWT and Ogilvy and Mather, as well as Finsbury PR and TNS market research, is saying the recession is L-shaped in the UK and Western Europe, U-shaped in the US, and V-shaped in Asia and the Bric countries.

If Sorrell's diagnosis is right then us Brits may well be left broken-hearted. L-shaped recessions involve a protracted period of economic stagnation - like the one that struck Japan during its ‘lost decade' of the 1990s, causing scores of usually stoic salarymen to break down and utterly lose their marbles. The U involves a period of stagnation before things get better (as in the US, which is now officially out of recession); while the V-shape is what you really want - an economy that hits bottom but bounces straight back up again.

The phrase isn't actually Sorrell's - it was previously used by Reuters blogger Stella Dawson, who described the recent months as the ‘summer of Luv'. Sorrell then picked it up for a WPP trading statement, calling it: ‘the most acute description in the alphabet soup debate on the shape of the current economic cycle'.

Sorrell has waded into said debate before, coining the phrase ‘bath-shaped recession' to describe the period after the dot-com boom. This refers to a dip in fortunes that, while preferable to the L-shape, involves a longer trough than the U-shape before things pick up. In Sorrell's view the bath-shaped recession has a corrugated bottom, meaning a series of small peaks and troughs before things genuinely get better.

We hope you managed to keep up with all that. A whole host of letters are bad enough, but when people start describing the economy in terms of baths it's getting a bit ridiculous. We're waiting for someone to mention the rogue hair of recovery, which risks being washed away by the government's mishandling of the showerhead.

Back in the real world, WPP describes the current advertising climate as ‘less worse' than before, coming across like a perennial single describing their love life after their latest disastrous date at Pizza Hut.

As for WPP itself, the picture was a bit mixed. The company's revenues fell 8.7% in the third quarter, compared with a decline of more than 10% in Q2. The panic levels of late 2008 and Q1 2009 are behind us, according to Sorrell, thanks largely to the massive stimulus packages introduced by the world's governments, but increased confidence among corporate leaders is ‘still not transferring to their cheque-writing hands'.

So while Asia bounces back, and the US starts its gradual recovery, it looks like the UK may have to follow the advice of that leading economic sage Phil Collins: you can't hurry LUV, you'll just have to wait...

In today's bulletin:

John Lewis and Samsung inject some pre-Christmas cheer
WPP's Sorrell: LUV is in the air
France Télécom throws €1bn at its stress problem
Why personal emails are critical to office stress levels
Trust your instincts, with YouTube

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