Sir Martin Sorrell has highlighted the potential of Iran as a consumer market ripe with opportunities for advertisers, in an opinion piece on LinkedIn.
In the blogpost entitled ‘Iran & Cuba: Open for Business?’, the WPP chief executive and founder highlighted Iran’s sizeable population, half of whom are “under 30, almost all are literate and well-educated, and, despite the longstanding sanctions regime, they already have a taste for Western products and brands”.
Iran’s potential as a market for Western brands arrives in the wake of six world powers signing an agreement with Iran to limit its nuclear capabilities in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions – a move Sorrell said “paves the way, potentially, for the Islamic Republic’s return to the fold over the next 10 to 15 years”.
Citing reports that have linked Apple to testing Iran’s potential as a business market, Sorrell points out that Iran is a “bigger country by population” than the UK, France and Italy, with about 80 million people, while GDP estimates “place it in the world’s 30 biggest economies”.
But he also expressed reservations while noting that the notion of doing business in Iran will draw the opposition of many in Congress and from the likes of Israel.
“Some believe the corporate world wants Iran to be open for business ‘no matter what’,” he wrote. “Chief executives undoubtedly see Iran as a huge market opportunity, but most I talk to express caution, a recognition of the many challenges still ahead, and even a sense of personal conflict.”
WPP saw opportunity back in 2012 when the US eased sanctions on the military-junta-run Myanmar and the group became the first marketing services business to invest in the country, while WPP became the first Western marketing group to establish a base in Cuba, and Sorrell drew parallels.
“Major international brands are returning [to Myanmar], with Heineken, which left 20 years ago, recently announcing that it has opened a $60 million brewery just outside Yangon,” he said.
Sorrell concluded: “The choices are to move with the geopolitical forces shaping the world, and participate, or stick your head in the sand and pretend they’re not happening.
“Most will choose not to be ostriches, and economic developments and communication may be the best ways to build grass-roots understanding. Remember Nixon, Kissinger and Mao Tse-tung.”