Artificial Intelligence

AI Now and Next: Dublin Tech Summit hosts a fireside chat with Sir Martin Sorrell

By Business & Finance
11 June 2024
Pictured: Sir Martin Sorrell, founder and Executive Chairman of S4Capital plc

Sir Martin Sorrell is Founder and Executive Chairman of S4Capital plc, a digital advertising, marketing and technology services company he established in 2018. He spoke with Tom Lyons, CEO of  The Currency on the subject of ‘AI Now and Next’.

Sir Martin Sorrell is founder and Executive Chairman of S4Capital plc, the tech-led digital advertising, marketing and technology services company, established in 2018.

In 2018, S4 combined with MediaMonks and MightyHive, and all three have since merged with over 25 companies. In 2021, the organisation integrated into Media.Monks, the digital-first operating brand that connects content, data and digital media and technology services across one global team in 32 countries.

Sorrell was CEO of WPP for 33 years, building it from a £1 million ‘shell’ company in 1985 into the world’s largest advertising and marketing services company, with a market capitalisation of over £16 billion the day he left. Previously, he was Group Financial Director of Saatchi & Saatchi Company Plc.

He has been nominated as one of the TIME 100: The Most Influential People and received the Harvard Business School Alumni Achievement Award.

Tom Lyons, CEO of business media outlet The Currency, interviewed Sorrell before a packed audience at the Prism Stage at Dublin Tech Summit 2024

AI: The fifth Industrial Revolution?

Lyons asked, “where do you see AI relative to what’s gone before?”

“It’s very fashionable to talk about it as a fifth Industrial Revolution,” said Sorrell. “But look, it is significant in the context of the two things that I think we think about most.

“One is geography. So, globalisation that started, say, in the early eighties with Ted Levitt’s article in the Harvard Business Review about consumers consuming everything in the world in the same way … That’s one bucket, and the second bucket is technology.

“So whether you’re talking about the internet, the smartphone, AI ranks at that level in terms of revolutionary impact.”

The AI bubble?

Sorrell then spoke about a session at Goldman Sachs in London, with Scott Galloway. The discussion centred on Anti-Semitism.

“It was a session where he was talking a little bit about the impact of AI, and one of the things he said to me that … if you look at the increase in market cap of AI-related stocks and the investment that the mag 7 or maybe the mag 4 [stocks] are making in capital expenditure around AI, which this year probably is about 200 billion for the mag 4, and you compare it to the amount of revenue that is generated by AI so far, there’s a disconnect, which in his view, says there’s a bubble being created.

“We’ll see how that plays out,” he said.

AI impact

“Apart from the healthcare industry, the advertising and marketing services industry has been the most impacted by AI and its implications,” Sorrell said.

What are those changes? “The first I’m going to talk about is visualisation and copywriting. So, what took us, say, weeks to do, we can now literally do in hours. That’s copywriting, visualisation, pictures moving [and] still pictures. We can create ads. Time to market is very short.

“That’s not necessarily good news. I think in the audience we have people from the advertising industry either listening or physically here, and it is going to be quite painful in that in those areas, because the number of people that you will need for copywriting and visualisation will be reduced.

“The other big problem for the industry is we sell time. We don’t sell output, and the number of hours that it takes to create an ad is being compressed, and the procurement department clients will quite rightly say to us the time is less, the hours are less, we want a share of that.”

The second area Sorrell spoke about, “which is the complete reverse and is super super important,” is hyper-personalisation.

“If you think about Netflix, I’m sure people in the audience are Netflix subscribers, or indeed, Amazon Prime or Disney Plus, you will know, particularly in the case of Netflix, that you are continually sent messages, which are derived from first party data. That’s client-consented data that Netflix has about you and I as subscribers, plus the signals from the platforms they use.

“So whether you’re talking about the internet, the smartphone, AI ranks at that level in terms of revolutionary impact.”

“It could be Google. It could be Meta or Facebook or whatever, or Instagram. It could be Amazon. It could be in a Chinese context on Alibaba, Tencent or, in a more global content … or a Tik tok, so that first party data is driving personalization at a scale that we have never seen before.

“And the really interesting thing that’s happening is that CMO s and marketing organisations, even of companies that are doing spectacularly well, apart from those that are challenged by disruption, are looking at breaking their marketing into 2 levels, a sort of upper funnel, strategic big idea, creative campaign, that then funnels down to a content platform on which are stored assets that can be sent distributed to you or me, depending on our tastes, depending on what the first party data says and what the signals from the platforms are behaviour.

“We know that Tom likes sport, for example, that he watches Manchester United or whatever, so we’ll create a piece of content that appeals to [him] … This is a huge development, and the scale that we’re talking about is phenomenal Before the development, the more recent development of AI … We used to produce, maybe, 1.5 million, in theory, different assets for a Netflix campaign.

“We can now do that on steroids.

“So I call this Netflix on steroids and that is huge, and in my view, you are going to see major organisations shift the way they do their marketing to encompass that.”

Dublin Tech Summit

Dublin Tech Summit 2024, hosted in the RDS Dublin on 29 and 30 May, boasted 8000 attendees, 250 international speakers, 125 unqiue sessions, and more than 15 million social media impressions.

The session on ‘AI Now and Next’ can be streamed on demand at the following link.

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