Few people have a better overview of the tech economy than Sir Martin Sorrell, the co-founder and longtime CEO of the world’s largest advertising company, WPP.
With WPP’s over 200,000 employees and a $75 billion media book, Sir Martin has a uniquely privileged insight into the future of the online advertising industry. And he believes that 2018 might be the year that a third company joins what he calls the Facebook/Google “duopoly” in online advertising and search.
That company is, of course, Amazon which he describes, cutely, as an “up and comer” in online advertising. Along with being an commerce and web services leviathan, Sir Martin predicts, Bezos’ beast is about to become an advertising and search company.
Not that Sir Martin is writing off either Facebook or, particularly, Google. Indeed, he boldly suggests that Google might have a clear lead in autonomous cars. And he is optimistic about all the world’s seven dominant tech company (the Frightful Five plus Alibaba and Tencent) — who he collectively calls the “seven sisters”- in terms of their development of AI. But even here he’s particularly bullish on Amazon’s Alexa which, he believes, is winning in the voice-activation device war by “carpet-bombing” its rivals.
Over the years, Sir Martin has consistently argued that the big tech companies should have the same responsibilities and accountability as traditional media companies. So will 2018 be the year that the worm finally turns and the Frightful Five finally admit they really are media companies? Sir Martin thinks that this might have actually happened in 2017 — citing Facebook’s decision last year to employ 20,000 editors to monitor its videos.
And in 2018, he suggests, they will come to behave more and more like traditional media companies. With great power, he reminds us, comes great responsibility. And perhaps nobody should listen more carefully to this advice that Jeff Bezos, who Sir Martin describes as the “John D. Rockefeller” of the 21st century.