Advertising tycoon Martin Sorrell says uncertainty across the globe is stifling business, and he criticized Washington for "fiddling while Rome burns."
"It's very mucky," said the chief executive of WPP, a London-based multinational PR company, of the business landscape.
On CNBC's "Squawk Box" Sorrell cited four "gray swans" across the globe that are the source of the unease: euro zone troubles, flare-ups in the Middle East, China's hard or soft economic landing (he says soft), and the "fiscal cliff" in the U.S.
He said that despite positive signs early on in talks between Congress and the White House, "yesterday things took a turn for the worse. ... Most people I talked to (in Washington) wouldn't bet on a solution before Dec. 31."
Clients, he said, are finding it "very difficult to predict consumer behavior in the short term. And as a result they're being very cautious. ... In those circumstances, people are not going to make commitments."
The head of the world's largest advertiser by revenue also weighed in on the U.S. presidential election, saying the roughly $8 billion spent on ads turned out to be less important than the quality of the candidates' respective teams.
"The people Obama employed ... were better," Sorrell said.
@Matt_Twomey on Twitter.