Coronavirus: Advertising tycoon Martin Sorrell predicts 'permanent' digital shift

Edmund Heaphy
Finance and news reporter
Martin Sorrell, the executive chairman of digital advertising and marketing firm S4 Capital. (Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile for Web Summit via Getty Images)

Advertising tycoon Martin Sorrell on Tuesday predicted that the coronavirus pandemic will prompt firms to accelerate their digital transformation as part of a permanent shift in consumer and business behaviour.

“All companies will be looking at digital transformation in a different way,” Sorrell told Sky News.

“Now that all bets are off, that the status quo has been disturbed, the more comfortable economic climate has been disturbed, CEOs will push their companies to transform even faster,” he said.

His comments came after his new firm MightyHive announced plans to merge with Digodat, a Latin American data and analytics consultancy.

Sorrell owns MightyHive through S4 Capital (SFOR.L), the digital advertising and marketing firm he founded in 2018 following his departure from advertising behemoth WPP (WPP.L).

Sorrell left WPP after a board-level investigation into alleged personal misconduct.

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“As far as consumers are concerned, we’re educating our kids online, we’re buying more online. 32% of US households are trialing for the first time grocery online purchasing and necessities. That will, of course, be a permanent shift,” he said on Tuesday.

“If you’ve made your purchases, once you’ve bought online goods and set up an account, it will encourage you to go further.”

Sorrell said that he thought now was the time for S4 Capital to expand. “We’re coming out of the lockdown,” he said.

Digodat, which was founded in 2015, has 50 employees in Argentina, Colombia, Chile, and Mexico, and counts firms like Google (GOOG) and BBVA (BBVA) as customers.

Though he noted that there was still a threat of a second wave of coronavirus infections, Sorrell said that the second quarter of the year would be end up being the most difficult.

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“Coming out of Q2, Q3 will be relatively better, and then Q4, the last quarter of the year, will be stronger still,” he said.

While some aspects of the economy will see slower U-shaped or even L-shaped recoveries, he said, Sorrell predicted that others would experience faster V-shaped rebounds.

“Basically, we see the glass half full. The fiscal stimulus that we’ve seen, it’s been so huge — we think that counters the recessionary effects. Of course, the stock market is signaling there will be a recovery.”

“I want S4 to be fit and ready to go as we come out of lockdowns towards the end of May and towards the end of June,” he said.

“I think by the end of June, people will be feeling a little bit more optimistic about things.”