The most powerful man in advertising believes PR has a very bright future, driven in part by the social networking wave that is reshaping how people communicate. He sees a brewing revolt among young people against ads. They don’t appreciate advertising one-way/top-down method of delivering sponsored messages. Social networkers want to be part of the conversation.
That scenario is why staffers at Hill & Knowlton, Burson-Marsteller, GCI Group, Ogilvy PR and Cohn & Wolfe are walking a bit taller these days.
WPP Group may not be the largest of the communications conglomerates, but its CEO Martin Sorrell is the most eloquent man in the ad/PR business. For instance, does anyone know where Omnicom CEO John Wren stands on the future of PR. Or any other issue? Interpublic’s Michael Roth gets a “pass” for the moment. He is struggling with weighty financial matters—though Bear Stearns believes IPG stock is set to pop (sub req'd).
Sorrell, according to a piece in the Guardian, believes web users are turned off by advertising. They don’t want to be “advertised to” or “monetized.” Networkers want to be viewed as more than a set of eyeballs. It’s a simple matter of respect.
Sorrell believes PR is the way that brands and ideas get around social networkers’ aversion to advertising. The third-party credibility of PR is how marketers’ inject themselves into that conversation. Or as Sorrell put it, social networkers are hungry for ideas and knowledge from “independent sources.”
WPP’s PR and PA group was the star performer in its third-quarter. That upbeat performance was powered by H&K, GCI, Public Strategies, Finsbury and Quinn Gillespie.
Sorrell told investors that WPP has its eye out for small to mid-sized acquisitions. One can bet that PR firms are near the top of that list.