WPP’s Sorrell singles out Amazon’s Alexa as leading edge of new data-driven threat


WPP chief Sir Martin Sorrell has singled out Amazon’sAlexa personal assistant as providing one of the biggest threats to the advertising industry going forward – alongside the existing tech duopoly of Facebook and Google.

Sorrell’s fears centre on the growing pervasiveness of the online retailers Alexa personal assistant, to which it has begun attaching a camera to hoover up even more data from consumers. Arming it with a treasure trove of data to which more traditional ad giants can but dream.

Pointing to the Echo Look ‘style assistant’, a tool designed to help individuals find their desired clothing, Sorrell told an audience of French marketing professionals in London (via video link) that this was merely the thin end of the wedge, saying: “So you are looking for clothing, and one could assume that the artificial intelligence or algorithms will be able to order you clothing. You can try it on, like you would in the changing room of a bricks [and mortar]retailer, using digital technology. So the data that comes from that will become critically important.”

Elsewhere Sorrell was effusive on the rise of programmatic advertising, foreseeing ‘unlimited opportunities’ going forward, though couching this with a warning that… “the constraint is going to be privacy and having walled gardens like Apple, Google, Facebook, Alibaba, Tencent, Amazon and the like. It is our ability to get access to that data.”

During his tenure at WPP Sorrell has become increasingly alarmed at moves to control access to data as advertisers battle to retain access to customer data for their own competitive advantage.

It isn’t just ad agencies to which Sorrell harbours fears however, in previous exchanges he has predicted that Amazon’s ‘tentacles’ could suffocate Google itself.

This article first appeared in www.thedrum.com

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John Glenday

John Glenday is responsible for compiling The Drum's daily morning bulletin and ensuring that overnight breaking news is covered while you're still brushing your teeth. Can also make a mean cup of tea.

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