Special Guests: Sir Martin Sorrell - WPP Group CEO
NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: All right. I love having this gentleman on. You know, It is a privacy matter that is now ultimately become very, very public hasn't? Facebook admitting that it hired a public relations firm by the name of Burson Marsteller, to sort of get a leg up and maybe some dirt on Google.
Now, the PR firm tried to secure negative stories from columnists and writers about the search engine use of private information from Facebook and other social networks. You've heard it all by now but it was really never disclosed that Facebook were the folks paying for it.
Now Burson Marstellar doing a bit of a mea culpa here, saying that it's no longer working with Facebook, never should have never accepted the assignment in the first place. Part of a huge communications empire opened by WPP. Here exclusively with me right now, the man that runs the empire, started it 25 years ago, WPP. CEO, Sir Martin.
SIR MARTIN SORRELL, WPP GROUP CEO: Good evening Neil. Wire and plastic products in those days. Yes, a small engineering company. We're coming to the point -- obviously, that was not right what Burson did. They have admitted as such.
CAVUTO: Did you know at the time --
SORRELL: Hold on. Let me finish. Withdrawn from the assignment. It conflicted with Burson's policies and our own policies. And the disciplinary action has been taken in relation to it.
CAVUTO: Now what conflicted from what I -- from what I understand, sir martin, what conflicted was when Facebook wanted to retain anonymity, right?
CAVUTO: That's when you said --
SORRELL: I didn't say that. Wait a minute. Burson took that decision.
CAVUTO: OK. But were you aware of the particulars at the time?
SORRELL: Aware of the particulars when?
CAVUTO: When this was all unfolding?
SORRELL: No, no, only afterwards. Only afterwards. But I should point out you were slightly inaccurate in the way you introduced that. The data that was provided was all public domain data.
SORRELL: All that effectively they were doing was drawing attention to public domain data that is there.
CAVUTO: Right. It was -- you're right about that. It wasn't secret.
SORRELL: No, no, no. This was no secret. So the --.
CAVUTO: But the issue for you was what?
SORRELL: The offending issue that it was anonymous. That is against Burson's policy and against WPP's code of conduct.
CAVUTO: So when this kind of stuff happens, I kind --
SORRELL: You have to deal with it.
CAVUTO: Right. But by deal with it, you found out -- or your guys found out after the fact that Facebook said if we had our druthers, we don't want fingerprints on it.
SORRELL: There's no question about fingerprints on it. The assignment should have never taken in the first place.
CAVUTO: But it was never brought up that Facebook want anonymity.
SORRELL: Sorry, never brought up with where?
CAVUTO: When Burson was first signed on?
SORRELL: I think initially it was accepted by Burson that it should be anonymous. And that was wrong.
CAVUTO: I got you. How are relations between your two firms now?
SORRELL: Which two firms?
CAVUTO: Burson and Facebook?
SORRELL: Well, Burson have issued their statement. Facebook have issued their statement. And that assignment has ceased.
CAVUTO: Would you ever do business with them again?
SORRELL: Well, we do business with Facebook on a continuous basis, because we buy media, of course.
CAVUTO: But on something like this, no?
SORRELL: I think obviously it was the wrong thing to do. I think Facebook has indicated it was wrong thing as well. So I think it's a moot point actually.
CAVUTO: Are you surprised it got almost this Nixonian treatment of secrets and all this? As you said, it really concerned publicly available information.
SORRELL: -- not Nixonian treatment. I think it was dealt with effectively and quickly and --
CAVUTO: I'm talking on Facebook's part, that they just reinforce this intrigue about competitors in a business and how they deal with each other?
SORRELL: I think you have a lot of things going on in the technology area of high-risk and high reward. And I was looking at some of the blogs in relation to the story and in relation to some of the things that Fox and others have written and said. And there are some interesting comments made about the nature of the competitive combat that is going on in the technology area at the moment. But that doesn't excuse -- excuse the conduct.