Cannes 2012: Sorrell confident of 4% ad growth in 2012 but "worried" about 2013

WPP's chief executive remains confident that global ad spend will achieve growth of 4% plus in this maxi-quadrennial year, despite a sluggish first quarter leading rival network to revise forecasts down, but Sorrell admits to being "worried" about 2013.

In the third part of an interview with Campaign, WPP's leader turns his attention to the global outlook for advertising this year and next.

Sorrell calls the London 2012 Olympics "a big opportunity" for the UK economy and UK business, as he says it will be for the BRICs [Brazil, Russia, India and China], with Brazil hosting the Olympics in 2016.   

Sorrell said: "Clients should see the UK as a country of opportunity rather than challenge, but it is difficult considering the relatively rates of growth we are seeing in Western Europe and the United States.

"I think it is fair to say, I find very few if any chief executives who are anxious to expand in Western Europe, whereas I can’t find a CEO who isn’t anxious to expand his or her capacity in the BRICS and next 11."

Concerns about a currently muted impact of the quadrennial events in the UK - referring to spending around the US presidential elections, the London Olympics, the Paralympics and the European football championships, were called "misplaced".

Sorrell said: "You can’t look at it in the context of six months before the Games... The Olympics is not pure new money, it is characterised by a shift from existing budgets, there is some new money but it is characterised by the shift."

The chief executive remains confident that global ad spend for 2012 is set to achieve growth of "4+" this year, despite some forecasts being revised down after a sluggish quarter one and subdued quarter two, especially for TV and Outdoor which were expected to be the two big beneficiaries of additional spend in the UK.

Sorrell said performance had to be viewed in relation to the ongoing tough economic climate. "If you think about worldwide GDP being real 3% roughly, inflation’s about 2% - so if advertising’s stays the same proportion of GNP, and it is still at depressed levels post Lehman, we’re talking about growth of about 5% for the industry."

However, in comments that will concern many in the media and marketing industries, WPP's famously bullish chief executive did admit to being concerned about the advertising outlook for next year.

He said: "I’m worried about 2013, I’d like WPP to be 'tight', not with too much surplass capacity. I think it is going to be a challenge post US elections.

"I hope we’ll muddle through in Europe. I hope that [Germany’s] Chancellor Merkel with come to the rescue. I hope we will muddle through in that way, I worry about the microscope being turned onto the United States, and them dealing with their deficit."

Part 1: Sorrell prepares to debate the importance of live events
Part 2: Sorrell calls WPP leaders underpaid
Part 2: Sorrell confident of 4% ad growth in 2012 but "worried" about 2013

Follow Arif Durrani on Twitter: DurraniMix / follow Sarah Johnson on Twitter: @BRProducers

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