Martin Sorrell, WPP CEO says boycotting Google "doesn't make sense"

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"They are media companies, they are not technology companies, they cannot masquerade as technology companies and they are responsible, just like you and everybody else, for the content that goes out on their channel and they have to take responsibility," Sorrel said in a live TV interview with CNBC. He added that in the long run, "Boycotting what is one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful medium, doesn't make sense." He has a point, excluding yourself from the largest media marketplace online is not going to serve you in the long run, but while everyone uses Google, Google is making the web poorer. This boycott may shake up the online hierarchy in the end, as digital media is a fraud and could use a cleanup.

The boycotts have however forced Google into taking action, and other user-generated content sites that rely on advertising revenue such as Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook are paying close attention to what is happening.

On Friday 24th of March PepsiCo, Walmart and Starbucks in the United States confirmed that they had pulled all advertising from Youtube & Google. Following AT&T, Verizon, Johnson & Johnson, JPMorgan, Chase and Volkswagen who pulled ads earlier in the week. The boycott began in the UK when Havas’ UK boss, Paul Frampton, discovered ads on ISIS propaganda videos, and a decision was made to immediately suspend all advertising on Google. Among their UK clients are O2, Royal Mail, government-owned British Broadcasting Corp., Domino’s Pizza and Hyundai Kia. It soon spread to many more global brands.

“We have a duty of care to our clients in the UK marketplace . . . where we can be assured that that environment is safe, regulated to the degree necessary and additive to their brands’ objectives,” Frampton said in a statement. Havas UK spends about £500m on digital advertising. The Times of London ran an investigative piece stating that UK tax payers were funding terrorist organizations and hate groups, which led to the UK Government and the Guardian to pull all online ads immediately. We reported in February that the US 2017 Super Bowl commercials were running as pre-roll ads on terrorist groups channels.

"With duopolistic control or influence comes responsibility, and last time I checked Google's revenues and margins and Facebook's revenues and margins, they were certainly, I look at them with some degree of envy, it's true ... With authority or position comes a responsibility, and they have got to step up and take responsibility," Sorrell told CNBC.

This responsibility now includes policing the content, which goes against the grain of the core idea of some of these sites. While Facebook has been hiding nursing mother's nipples for so long it's become a joke used in ads for breast cancer checkups, social media sites like Twitter has struggled to find what to ban. Banning controversial speakers to stay attractive to advertisers while allowing ISIS recruiters to stay on the network doesn't work in the long run as users revolt due to arbitrary rule enforcement. Snapchat has received criticism due to ads appearing before or after explicit content and porn stars using advertisers lenses. Snapchat's guidelines prohibit users to distribute sexually explicit content in stories, but there are no tools in place that prevent it.

In 2015 Martin Sorrel revealed that Google had become WPP's biggest media partner, WPP invested $2.9 billion of its $75 billion media bookings into Google ads in 2014. Last year this number rose to $5 billion. WPP spends $1.7 billion on Facebook and $90 million on Snapchat advertising. Google is likely to make $72.69 billion in ad revenues in 2017. According to ABC.au news the Google ad boycott could cost them $750 million. Previously Sorrel has called Google a "frenemy", too big to avoid as you have no choice but to partner with them. This week Sorrell said WPP has partnered with Google to introduce technology to monitor where ads are appearing, but did not give further details and admitted that "you can't make things 100 percent brand safe."

Comments (3)

  • kidsleepy's picture
    kidsleepy

    "This week Sorrell said WPP has partnered with Google to introduce technology to monitor where ads are appearing, but did not give further details and admitted that 'you can't make things 100 percent brand safe.'"

    So he doesn't want people to boycott Google because he has a financial interest in making sure people see the ads. Got it.

    Apr 02, 2017
  • Dabitch's picture
    Dabitch

    You're very observant. Sorrel has reached "can't beat them join them" status.

    Apr 03, 2017
  • sport's picture
    sport

    As usual, Sorrel is up to something. Great for his bottom line is usually not great from a creator perspective.

    Apr 07, 2017

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Dabitch Creative Director, CEO, hell-raising sweetheart and editor of Adland. Globetrotting Swede who has lived and worked in New York, London, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Stockholm.