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Opinion and Insight
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Sir Martin Sorrell & Bernie Ecclestone on Brexit, Putin and Trump at Ad Week Europe

LBB Editorial, 5 months, 2 weeks ago

LBB’s Laura Swinton and Jake Otley feel a very different ‘Bern’ on day two of Ad Week Europe

Sir Martin Sorrell & Bernie Ecclestone on Brexit, Putin and Trump at Ad Week Europe

“Putin should be running Europe.”

Bernie Ecclestone stole the show at day two of Advertising Week Europe with his breath-taking views on Brexit and world politics.

The CEO of Formula 1 was in conversation with WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell, who proved himself a master of the just-enough-rope Louis Theroux style of interviewing at their one-on-one session on Tuesday afternoon.

The pair covered topics ranging from the struggles of the F1 brand to women drivers, but it was Europe and immigration that really caught the audience’s attention.

When asked how he would vote on the so-called Brexit referendum, Bernie Ecclestone said that he ‘probably won’t’, but when pushed revealed that he was ‘100% out’.

Sir Martin Sorrell, on the other hand, was clear that Britain leaving the EU would put WPP’s global influence – and jobs – at risk. “All our imports and exports come from there, the big investors come from there, the financial services… If I look at it from WPP’s point of view, we would lose influence in four of our top ten markets: Germany, France, Italy and Spain. Brussels, whether we like it or not, is important. It’s important that we have contact and people on the ground. You don’t see any benefit with that?”

Later, when Bernie Ecclestone said, “I think Europe has become less important full stop”, Sir Martin teased him about his admiration for Russian leader Vladimir Putin, leading to a bizarre back and forth in which the head of F1 revealed that he thinks Putin should take control of both the EU and the UK.

“Do you mean Western Europe, Eastern Europe or both? Because you’re a great admirer of Vladimir Putin and what he’s done for Russia, aren’t you?” asked Sir Martin Sorrell.

“He should be running Europe.”

“He should be in Brussels running Europe?”

“We should get rid of Brussels and he should be in charge.”

“And in charge of us too?”

“Yes, of course,” said Mr Ecclestone, who says he admired the Russian premier because, “He does what he says he’s going to do. He gets the job done.”

The discussion also covered Sir Martin Sorrell’s involvement in Formula 1 (he worked for Jackie Stewart in his youth and now sits as a non-exec director on the board) as well as diverging views on immigration. 

But it also served as a jumping off point for the following panel on the advertising industry’s view on Brexit. 

Chaired by Emma Barnett, Women’s Editor at The Telegraph, the panel featured Tim Lefroy, Chief Executive of the Advertising Association, and Peter Foster, Europe Editor at The Telegraph. 

Unsurprisingly sedate in comparison to Bernie vs. Sorrell, Emma Barnett started off by throwing the Brexit debate to the audience, most of whom were backing the ‘In’ campaign. 

Tim Lefroy, bound by his commitment to neutrality, said that he felt, “The UK advertising industry will press forward whether we are in or out of the EU.” 

Staying on the fence somewhat, Mr Lefroy summed up by saying that, “Our combined creative industries are worth more than financial services. And we’re bloody good at it!” 

Later in the Brexit bonanza, economist and journalist Roger Bootle joked that the panel had been rather unbalanced: “I’ve been one of the only Brexiters on these panels, so congratulations on out doing the BBC.”

Mr Bootle then made his case for Brexit saying, “I’m reminded of what happened when Britain didn’t join the Euro. Many figures and businesses who are now campaigning for Britain to stay in the EU, then campaigned for Britain to join the Euro. Many of them said that they would leave the country if we didn't join the Euro, and much of that was complete nonsense. I imagine that much of this will turn out to be complete nonsense, as well.”

However, despite his attempts, the vast majority of the room remained pro-Bremain.