Physical Distancing With Friends: Martin Sorrell

Sir Martin Sorrell thinks the term “social distancing” could use a rebrand, since we’re actually communicating more than ever, albeit virtually.

“I think social distancing is not the right way of putting it,” he says. “It’s physical distancing.”

As founder and CEO of S4 Capital, Sir Martin is keeping an eye on his 2,500 employees across 30 countries, while watching the company’s financials closely. He and eight senior executives meet daily as a Coronavirus Crisis Group to assess the rapidly changing situation. His approach to communicating: “Don’t gild the lily or varnish the truth, but give a vision for the future.”

As for the impending recession, Q2 will be a “blood bath,” Sir Martin predicts, but we’ll see a sharp recovery in Q4 or early 2021. From marketers, he predicts a rapid shift to digital and a renewed focus on digital transformation. And for the holding companies, which still do a majority of their work in traditional media, he predicts some will go private.

“That’s an albatross around their necks they’re going to have to deal with,” he said.

Sir Martin is physical distancing at his home in London, where he gets out for the occasional weekend walk in nearby Hyde Park – although the police are quite strict about social gatherings, he said. Notoriously on-the-go, he finds comfort and sanity in looking out his study window at an orange tree and lemon tree growing in his yard, and is already rethinking his travel habits for the future.

“I don’t think I could do this for the rest of my working life, but it’s had its compensations,” he says.

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