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Opinion and Insight

Is Sir Martin Sorrell Now a Champion for Independent Agencies?

The S4 Capital executive chairman discusses Black Lives Matter and diversity, payment terms, pitch consultancies and more in a video interview hosted by MAAG in association with LBB

Is Sir Martin Sorrell Now a Champion for Independent Agencies?

S4 Capital executive chairman Sir Martin Sorrell identified himself as a new champion for independent agencies in an interview hosted by the Marketing Agencies Action Group in association with Little Black Book last week.

Speaking to MAAG director Clive Mishon, the WPP founder and former CEO discussed exactly how he defines an independent agency and how S4 Capital fits into that definition.

Sir Martin also spoke on a range of pertinent issues for the creative industry, including the push for diversity in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, calls for legislation on payment terms to protect small businesses, and what he called the pitch consultancies’ “pay-to-play” model.

He outlined how S4 is attempting to improve diversity through donations, anti-racism training and changing the company’s hiring practices. “Fundamentally, Black Lives Matter will succeed if the pattern of jobs is changed,” he said, adding: “We’re highly diverse, but we’re not black enough. We must increase the number of black employees. And our recruitment policies are oriented to that. So we will set quotas, we will set targets.” He stressed that creating jobs for black employees “is the key”, as well as through changing procurement processes. He added that to ensure diversity, recruitment needs to shift away from qualifications and towards skills.

On payment terms, he called for legislation to ensure that small and medium sized companies aren’t forced to provide credit to their larger clients for long periods. “Small and medium sized companies are the lifeblood of employment,” he said. “Keeping them whole and healthy is really important.”

With Covid-19’s impact expected to precipitate a deluge of pitches in coming months, Sir Martin suggested that the current model involving pitch consultancies needs more transparency. He added that a good CMO should know which agencies are serious contenders and be able to run a “short, sharp and sweet” pitch process to avoid it becoming a “procurement fest where the lowest common denominator wins, not the highest common multiple.” 

Watch the whole interview below.

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