Bully for WPP chief Martin Sorrell, the pride of Ireland. One of the pleasures of working in the ad/PR media business is to review the commentaries that Sorrell submits with WPP's annual report and financial statements. [Sir Martin has assured me that he writes the stuff himself.] He did not disappoint last week.
Sorrell tackled "negative growth," an unfortunate term that was bandied by PR firms and suppliers way too frequently during the Great Recession. Sorrell wrote:
“This followed zero like-for-like growth in the first quarter and 4.7% in quarter two. This significant turnaround was directionally in line with our earlier forecasts (we anticipated like-for-like growth in the second quarter of 2010 as early as the Third Quarter Trading Update of 2009), but was considerably more violent than anticipated. In 2009, our budgets were optimistic anticipating like-for-like growth of -2% (an oxymoron). In fact we came in at -8%. In 2010, on the other hand, we proved too pessimistic, budgeting like-for-like growth of zero (another oxymoron) and coming in at over 5%. Let’s hope we have it more right in 2011.”
Oxymoron, indeed. Sorrell calls 'em as he sees 'em. You can't have negative growth.
The WPP head also made allusions to “brutal 2009, when the post-Lehman financial world did not come to an end, as some had feared,” “dead cat bounce,” English football, “pleasing progress,” “double-whammy" growth, new BRICs (Vietnam, Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Colombia, Mexico) joining the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China), “refilled bonus pools” and competitors playing “catch-up.”
I put Sorrell in the same league as Berkshire Hathaway maestro Warren Buffett, whose annual report is an must-read read in financial community and a strong indicator of the upcoming year on Wall Street. Move over, Warren. Here comes Sir Martin.
Sorrell wrote: "We entered 2010 with fingers crossed. There were few certainties. Little could be taken for granted." There is a big certainty: whenever Sorrell sits down at his writing desk, he is going to deliver a literary gem in the greatest tradition of his adopted home, the Emerald Isle.
I hope financially battered Ireland can afford to continue to host WPP.