Tech

Ad exec Martin Sorrell says Facebook and Google shouldn't be broken up, calls boycotts pointless

Key Points
  • S4 Capital CEO Martin Sorrell defended Google and Facebook as exercising more responsibility with advertisers.
  • Sorrell said the companies draw a lot of attention "because of their size and their dominance."
  • "When you get to a trillion dollars, obviously you draw a lot of attention," said Sorrell.
Sir Martin Sorrell, Executive Chairman, S4 Capital.
Eóin Noonan | Sportsfile | Getty Images

Legendary advertising executive Martin Sorrell says we don't need to break up Google or Facebook.

The S4 Capital CEO and WPP founder told CNBC's "A View from the Top" that the companies are "exercising more responsibility" with advertisers and that regulatory ideas about potentially splitting up the companies wouldn't accomplish much.

"If you just split these companies up, I don't think it would make that much difference," Sorrell said. He added that Facebook now has "35,000 people looking at the editorial," as the company tries to get a handle on hate speech and other misleading information.

"They've changed the algorithm," said Sorrell. "They've stopped extreme groups like the Boogaloo group. They don't get credit for that."

The chief executive officers at Facebook and Google, along with Apple and Amazon, testified in front of the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust in July and argued they're not abusing power as market share leaders. Google and Facebook will continue to dominate U.S. advertising from a market share revenue standpoint this year, according to research firm eMarketer, taking in more than $70 billion between them. 

"They tend to get an unfair rap, obviously, because of their size and their dominance," Sorrell said. "When you get to a trillion dollars, obviously you draw a lot of attention."

Google's YouTube and Facebook have dealt with boycotts as the companies work to eliminate undesirable content from showing up next to advertisements. Sorrell said he thinks the boycotts are generally ineffective, likening them to publicly negotiating with the Chinese government.

"It's a bit like dealing with the Chinese," said Sorrell. "You don't slap them in the face in public. What you do is you talk to them privately. You take them through what your beefs are, what your concerns are, and try and negotiate." 

If that doesn't work, small and medium-sized businesses must ban together to gain leverage against Facebook and Google, who rely on their advertising revenue, said Sorrell.

"They do have leverage because they are so important in the context of these platforms," Sorrell said. "I think one of the mistakes that the platforms made was not stressing that enough."

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WATCH: Sir Martin Sorrell questions Facebook ad boycotts and plans to work until he drops dead

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Sir Martin Sorrell questions Facebook ad boycotts, plans to work forever