And this year, Sorrell, who presides over the world’s largest advertising company, a global leviathan with 153,000 people working in 2,400 offices in 107 countries, was equally scathing in his attack on free online content. Arguing that giving away quality content was a “dreadful mistake” that resulted in many digital media companies “crucifying themselves”, Sir Martin said that not charging for online content is the “wrong” business model.
“We went down the wrong road from the beginning”, Sorrell told me about early Internet business models. And he argues that we are making the same mistake with our obsession today with “openness” and “transparency”. The pendulum will swing, Sir Martin predicts. People are going to demand what he described as “closed systems” in which they will happily pay for privacy from the transparent social web.