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Sorrell vs. Weed on Social Media

Posted by Sheila Shayon on June 28, 2010 01:45 PM

In front of the world's advertising industry who gathered in Cannes last week, WPP chief Sir Martin Sorrell disparaged their desire to make money on social networks such as Facebook.

"It strikes me that social media is the modern form of letter writing in many cases. What we do is communicate with one another and express our preferences, likes and dislikes," Sorrell argued during the on-stage Cannes Debate at the 2010 Cannes International Advertising Festival.

His sparring partner, Keith Weed, couldn't disagree more. The new global CMO of Unilever countered that marketers ignore social networks at their peril, which he sees as "more like the modern day equivalent of a pub or bar chat, creating a buzz in much the same way."

He added, hilariously: "Digital marketing’s like high school sex. Everybody’s talking about it. Few people are doing it, and those that are doing it, aren’t doing it very well.

Weed, who called social cyberspace as "word of mouth on steroids," emphasized monetization as crucial for social sites such as Facebook.

Sorrell countered with Facebook's recent privacy flap as indicative of the challenge brand marketers face on that platform: "They've fallen foul, of even their most loyal users."

Weed countered that brands are "great simplifiers…a huge part of people’s lives ... and very much alive on Facebook."

When two experts of this caliber disagree, in public on a stage at the world's largest advertising festival, you know this debate has only just begun.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, meanwhile, described his company as more of a technology company than an advertising platform in an earlier session at Cannes:

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