Whether you loved him or claimed you'd sooner lick the floor of an abattoir than work for him, Martin Sorrell's impact on the advertising industry is undeniable and inescapable. While he didn't invent the agency holding company model, he made it an unstoppable force, building the planet's largest ad agency company from an ownership stake he took in a British maker of baskets and household wares in 1985.
Along the way, Sorrell made friends and enemies (former Tempus chairman Chris Ingram reportedly said the bit about the abattoir floor; David Ogilvy has a famous quote about him you can Google), but he will forever be remembered for injecting a financial-first mentality into the agency world, the one who turned the industry from "Mad men" to "math men," some say.
"His legacy is he made advertising behave like a business and not like a bunch of capricious dilettantes, which is how it was looked at," says one WPP agency exec. And while that brought financial discipline, there was something lost, too: a diminishment of the role of individual agency leaders, whose big personalities once drove the industry.