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Sir Martin Sorrell: ‘Facebook has a lot of work to do in terms of video and video viewability’

WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell used his keynote Dmexco address to offer his take on some of the biggest issues in the advertising industry, with online viewabilty measurement ranking high in his assessment, as he identified “the three Vs” crucial to its development earlier today (16 September).

He singled out Facebook’s fast growing video offering, which has propelled its mobile revenues, as a trend emblematic of the wider issues hampering digital measurement. The three second rule Facebook uses to indicate to advertisers a user has demonstrate intent to watch a video when 50 per cent of online videos are not listened to is “ludicrous”, claimed Sir Martin.

“I’d just point out for example that Facebook has a lot of work to do in terms of video and video viewability,” said Sir Martin.

More robust measures are needed, he continued, at a time when the standards for measuring view in linear television are much higher, “whereas with online, they’re much lower”. Sir Martin’s criticism comes as Facebook continues to push its video offering as its premium advertising format through case studies, industry events and workshops.

Despite the undoubted strong reception of videos by Facebook advertisers, Sir Martin suggested that brands are increasingly asking for more rigour around how hard their media investments are working. It’s part of the reason why his holding group made investments in companies such as ComSore and Rentrak in recent months with “one of our major clients pointing out that the ‘three Vs’ – value, viewability and validation – as being critical in terms of online,” Sir Martin added.

“Engagement by consumers on traditional media such as newspaper and linear TV is greater than you see on areas of the internet, so we have to be balanced.”

Elsewhere in his presentation, Sir Martin also spoke about how his outfit, which does $76bn a year in audited billings, is fundamentally changing, adding that its future strategy could be summed up in one sentence: “fast-growth markets; digital; data management, and horizontality”.

He added: “Fast-growth markets are about 30 per cent of our business, and we want them to be about 40 to 45 percent. Digital is about 36 per cent, in fact in the first half of this year it hit 37 per cent, so it’s nearly 40 per cent. We want it to be 40 to 45 per cent.”

With data investment, he said it accounted for roughly 25 per cent of revenue, adding: “So increasingly of our $20bn in revenue, about $5bn is coming from data. And last, but not least, with horizontality, it’s about getting all 180, or 190,000 people to work together for the benefit of our clients.”

Summing up the current state of WPP’s business, he added: “If you added up media, and data, half our business – about $5bn comes from media, about $5bn comes from data, and digital is about $6bn. So if you add it all up, about $16bn of the $20bn [total] are coming from areas that Don Draper - if he were alive today - wouldn’t recognise.”

Ronan Shields

I cover digital media trading and martech for The Drum magazine, plus I write my own opinion pieces, I don't really commission them.

All by Ronan