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WPP’s Sorrell Seeks More Tech Deals as ‘Mad Men’ Ad World Fades

WPP Plc Chief Executive Officer Martin Sorrell, head of the world’s largest advertising agency, said his company will continue scouting for acquisitions following two deals announced today.

“The two fundamental drivers of our business are geography and technology,” Sorrell said at The Year Ahead: 2014, a two-day conference sponsored by Bloomberg LP in Chicago. “Digital didn’t exist 15 years ago. Today 35 percent of our revenue comes from digital platforms.”

WPP, based in London, has relied on mergers to fuel growth since its founding in 1971. Today the company agreed to buy Biggs Gilmore Communications Inc., a digital advertising firm in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and acquire majority ownership of Plasenta Conversation Agency, a social-media firm based in Istanbul.

Connecting with an audience requires much more of a technology focus than it did in the 1960s -- the era depicted by “Mad Men,” Sorrell said. Between 85 percent and 90 percent of car and truck purchases involve online searches, he said. Videos on sites such as Google’s Inc.’s YouTube also are rising in importance, Sorrell said.

“This is a big difference from Don Draper and ‘Mad Men,’” he said. “It’s an art and a science. It’s not just a craft anymore.”

Digital marketers also need to be in tune with consumer concerns about privacy, he said.

“We have to clearly say to consumers this is what we’re doing, this is what we’re using the data for,” he said.

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