New Delhi: The day Ogilvy and Mather India announced the acquisition of Hyderabad-based PennyWise Solutions, a digital marketing agency, Martin Sorrell, chief executive of the £10.4 billion in revenue WPP Plc, of which O&M is part, spoke to Mint on legacy media and digital media, political advertising, and why he remains an India bull. Edited excerpts:

WPP’s agency JWT India is likely to be among the firms getting the Congress party account. Does political advertising work?

Well, you have to ask Presidents and Prime Ministers and the people who did not become Presidents and Prime Ministers. The consumer is not a moron. You can fool people once, you can’t fool them twice. The same rule applies whether you are in FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) or in politics. Our agencies around the world take individual decisions whether they work in politics or not.

Look at Blue State Digital (a WPP digital marketing agency), and the work it did for president Obama in two elections.

Penn Schoen Berland (a market research, political polling and strategic consulting agency that is also part of WPP) worked historically for Clintons.

The key issue is to understand the demographic change. Clearly, President Obama won the second election when there were unprecedentedly high levels of unemployment. Mostly elections are determined by the state of the economy. Voters vote with their pockets, I think. What President Obama managed to do in the second election was to understand the demographic changes, the rise of the new mainstream in America whether it is the Hispanics, Afro-Americans, Asians...; understand the importance of single women, the gay sections of the community; things probably the Republicans didn’t understand. That was reflected in the political and the social media campaign (he ran). He understood the implications of social media on voting and fund-raising which in the American elections play an important role.

What we do is very important and politicians who understand that are likely to be more successful than those that don’t.

So you are saying political advertising works.

Demonstrably, it does. We have a tremendous capability in that area as do others. But it could go wrong. Mark Penn (of Penn Schoen Berland) handled Mrs (Hillary) Clinton’s nomination campaign against President Obama. That didn’t work well.

Is digital media reducing the role of intermediaries between customer and companies?

No, it increases it. As the environment gets more fragmented, the intermediary becomes more important.

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