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Kyoorius Designyatra 2009: Design will grow in these times, says Sir Martin Sorell

By Savia Jane Pinto , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Marketing | September 08, 2009
At the Designyatra, Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO, WPP Group chalked out the reasons why design will grow in the not so encouraging economic situation

Sir Martin Sorell, chief executive officer of WPP, the largest advertising network, shared his thoughts on retail design and design in general at the Designyatra 2009. In its fourth year, Designyatra is an annual four day event where great minds from the design industry come together to share ideas, discuss issues and exchange knowledge.

Sir Martin stressed on how design will come to the fore and be of utmost importance in times such as these, when the economic scenario isn't particularly upbeat.

He said that the world changed with the fall of the Lehman Brothers on September 13, 2008. The consumers, as well as the corporate industry, have gone into a state of shock. Recovering from this shock will happen, but it will take time. In such times, efficiency (which is cost in client speak) in advertising in all its forms has taken precedence over effectiveness and is a driver force.

& #BANNER1 & #Integration, he said, is a function of life in the design industry. He cited an example from WPP, and said that close to 60 per cent of its business comes from beyond advertising, from functions such as PR, design, brand communications and digital.

Sir Martin predicted that new media, new markets and consumer insights will help take design forward. By new markets, Sir Martin referred to markets such as Brazil, Russia, India, China and even Indonesia. New media, of course, refers to the digital process and digital media that has shown an increasingly potent impact. He admitted, "We've not moved fast enough in these areas and the statistics about the media are riveting."

About 20 per cent of people spend their time online, while only 12 per cent of advertising budgets are earmarked for the online space.

In India though, he said, the lack of Internet penetration is possibly why the impact has been stubbed. This, however, could be made up with the good mobile penetration that the sub-continent is witnessing. "In this matter, India is growing faster than China," said Sir Sorell.

He made a stronger statement when he said that new media seems to be demolishing traditional media slowly. In India, the newspaper industry is much more revered and entrenched but the overpowering reach of digital will change that with time.

In the context of the recession, Sir Martin laid emphasis on consumer insights. He said that the attitude of the consumers towards luxury has changed since the economic downturn and consumer behaviour has undergone a change as well.

Sir Martin also highlighted the issue of shortage and how the industry could take steps to tackle it. He said that finding the right talent, recruiting them, motivating them, incentivising them and retaining them should be of priority for the industry.

He also added that CSR (corporate social responsibility) drives a lot of what a brand does. He specified the IBM CSR initiative, titled Smarter planet, and the campaign around it.

"Harnessing CSR is critically important. Gone are the days when CEOs in their right minds would reject this stuff," he said.

He concluded his discussion by summarising that though the economic situation isn't great, a few bright spots are being seen. Fundamentally, the demand for retail design, product design, brand identity and all sorts of design will grow for a number of reasons such as globalisation, internal communications, shortage of talent, CSR and retail concentration.

Sir Martin also identified how the government will become an important customer. As an example, he mentioned how the British government this year is the largest advertiser in the UK for the upcoming elections next year. "Companies are putting together teams to develop and speak to the government," he revealed.