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Sir Martin Sorrell on commercial creativity

Sir Martin Sorrell outlined the key drivers and biggest threats to achieving better commercial creativity, from client relationships to costs, to pitching, tech, China and more, during an interview with Evan Davis last night (16 March 2015). The IPA event, held at the Ham Yard Hotel in London, marked the culmination of President Ian Priest’s ADAPT agenda.


During the hour-long interview, Sir Martin Sorrell and Evan Davis explored the five main components of Ian Priest’s ADAPT agenda – Alliances, Diversification, Agility, Performance and Talent – to assess how well he thinks the industry is evolving to meet the needs of the new world and what the industry should be looking out for.

View photos.

Watch the video.

Interview highlights from Sir Martin Sorrell:

On alliances / client relationships:

"Clients are good at playing the field as there is so much competition. But relationships are important and need to be built."

“Less time should be spent on pitching and more time on the business itself."

“Pitching has always been mad. Agencies should be well known enough to create a fair pitching process"

On performance / remuneration

“Incentive payments are still incredibly low. They're often only used to reduce fixed costs.”

“Ownership and control working together leads to good risks and good decisions.”

“We need to find new ways to make ourselves important to clients and increase our revenues.”

On agility:

"It's harder to be agile when you're a global company. Break it up and give local agencies power to enable adaptability."

“Boutique agencies can work incredibly well when they join up with bigger networks. Mixing old and new creates value."

On diversification:

"We need to find alternative ways to add value. Such as technology and content. We need to work with clients to benefit both sides."

“We must not forget that tech and digital can be creative. We need to think about the industry in a broader way.”

"The main driver for agencies, for WPP, Havas, Omnicom and Publicis, is media, and that has been magnified by the likes of Google and Facebook."

“Social media gives public relations a new lease of life and makes it more important than ever before.”

On China:

"It would be very arrogant of us to believe that 1.3 billion people, or 1.2 billion people, cannot produce better advertising agencies, media companies than we can. It pays to be paranoid.”

On what he fears most:

“I would have said Google a few years ago, but now I am more concerned about clients’ focus on costs. Clients need to focus on their horizon and not on their boots."

Last night’s event also saw the publication of a new Kingston Smith W1 and IPA survey which reveals how IPA President Ian Priest’s agenda has delivered on its promise of creating a movement for change across the key areas of Alliances, Diversification, Agility, Performance and Talent. View the full results:

For further information on the ADAPT agenda including reports, publications and videos from the ADAPTATHON series, visit

For enquiries about how the IPA is taking the ADAPT agenda forward under the Commercial strand of its content strategy, contact

For matters arising from this survey and advice from Kingston Smith W1 on all accounting, tax, M&A and other financial matters, please contact partner Esther Carder -

Last updated 17/03/2015

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