Sir Martin Sorrell: Technology will destroy jobs

Lynsey Barber
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WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell is cautious about technology companies (Source: Getty)

The rise of technology will destroy jobs, Sir Martin Sorrell, the boss of the world's largest advertising company has said, as he detailed his concerns about tech giants such as Google and Facebook.

"I happen to be in the camp of people who think that technology disrupts, and will destroy, jobs," the boss of WPP has said, speaking at a London Tech Week event.

"It's shortening the supply chain and getting rid of what I used to call, the tyranny of geography," Sorrell said of the internet. The supply chain in the media and advertising system "is the most complicated you've ever seen" he said "and clearly over time that will simplify".

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Experts have offered conflicting thoughts on how the future workforce will be affected by the rise of automation and artificial intelligence, while the rise of the gig economy with startups such as Uber, has largely been viewed as bad for workers.

The 72-year-old also likened tech companies such as Google, which he called a "frenemy", to sovereign states.

"They are effectively states. They are very powerful organisations, But the fearsome five who topped our brand table [Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook in BrandZ's ranking] are the five most valuable brands in the world."

He said he'd like to see Snap succeed and become the "third force" in online media and advertising along with Google and Facebook. The pair control 75 per cent of digital advertising and more than 20 per cent of the world's global trillion dollar advertising market. And on Oath, the new media company formed by Verizon to house newly acquired Yahoo and AOL he said: "Whether that becomes a third force, we'll have to see."

"The metrics are different and that's the terrifying thing," he said of tech companies, giving Uber as an example with its multi-billion dollar valuation and no profit as yet.

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"What you have is tremendous tensions not inside the new startups... but in the legacy company where you're churning away and doing the old fashioned thing - you have cash flow, you have profitability and budgeting. When Jeremy Clarkson went to Amazon... and he asked 'what's the budget?' and they said 'how do you spell that?'

"A media owner said to me, and I'd obviously caught him on a bad day, he said it's very difficult, we spend $3m an episode , Amazon Prime spends $10m, and Netflix spend $7m, and then to add insult to injury he had approved a $7m budget to pay Amazon Web Services for cloud computing."

On a recent earnings call, Sorrell said it was Amazon and not his then 3-month-old daughter keeping him up at night.

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