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Sorrell: Engagement with newspapers is very strong

Speaking to Steve Hewlett for this week’s Media Show on BBC Radio 4, the WPP CEO said the engagement between individuals and physical and digital newspapers is "very strong indeed".

Ahead of a guest speaker appearance at Wednesday's WACL dinner, Sir Martin Sorrell told The Media Show why the industry needs to start focusing on engagement.

"The death of traditional media is much overplayed... there is value there," he said.

"If you look at the data in the US, the advertising industry invests around 20% of their budget in print and yet consumers only spend about 5% of their time with print, so there's a disconnect.

"But on the other hand, if you look at data which shows the engagement between people and physical [newspapers and digital newsbrand apps], the engagement of individuals with a physical newspaper is very strong indeed."

The WPP boss, responsible for the world's biggest advertising and communications group, went on to use The Times as an example: "The average Times reader spends around 40 minutes reading cover to cover - or from the first page to the last page [digitally] - of a physical edition, so engagement is very strong."

Sorrell said the industry needs to capture consumer engagement in different ways, to demonstrate the difference between being fully immersed to paying partial attention. He says "traditional ways of measuring audiences aren’t doing that".

Reinforcing his comments earlier this year, when he urged clients and agencies to rethink their advertising budgets, saying "there is an argument at the moment going on about the effectiveness of newspapers and magazines, even in their traditional form, and maybe they are more effective than people give them credit [for]", Sorrell told presenter Steve Hewlett that "a highly engaged reader is more valuable".

He continued this theme throughout the Radio 4 interview, explaining that measuring how people engage and their depth of engagement online is "critically important". GroupM aims to capture online eyeballs with "very stringent" viewability standards, according to Sorrell.

"Someone just flitting through a screen will not get the degree of engagement that is necessary," he said. Sorrell is also very aware of online fraud, with "robots" registering views and clicks that do not really exist. WPP spends around £2 billion on programmatic but focuses on closed exchanges, Sorrell said, as "the likelihood of fraud is reduced and it is much more regulated".

Echoing views expressed at this year's Advertising Week Europe, Sorrell explained that digital is "sexier" than traditional media, "but as digital grows, we're looking at it with more concentrated eyes". Sorrell hopes the industry will get to a place where online measurement is "much more effective".

When asked about the future, the self-confessed Benjamin Button of the ad industry said he thinks mobile search and online video will be very powerful, though he says people will continue to consume content on multiple devices. 

Listen to The Media Show here

by Liz Jaques 29/05/15

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