Third and fourth quarters will define PR recovery

It is financial results season and the major marketing services holding companies have been reporting their numbers for the second quarter of 2010.

It is financial results season and the major marketing services holding companies have been reporting their numbers for the second quarter of 2010.

In the main the year-on-year returns make encouraging reading, with Q2 revenue at Publicis–owner of MS&LGroup and Kekst–up 7.1% to $1.83 billion, and H1 revenue up 5.3% to $3.27 billion.

The specialized agencies and marketing services business unit, which is no longer a formal business unit within Publicis but still includes MS&L on the balance sheet, generated 47% of company revenues.

Revenue at Interpublic's Constituency Management Group–home to Weber Shandwick, GolinHarris, MWW and Carmichael Lynch Spong–increased 7% in the second quarter of 2010, up to $242 million from $226.2 million last year. Again, PR agencies led growth within CMG, posting an 8.1% revenue increase for the quarter, according to CEO Harris Diamond.

And, last week, Omnicom posted a 7.1% year-on-year increase in global PR revenue in Q2, to $291 million, with informed sources suggesting its Fleishman-Hillard arm was up 11% globally.

So, all is good in the PR accounting house at the moment. But it should be noted that Q2 last year was right in the midst of the harshest chills of the recession and that comparables were almost inevitably going to be better in 2010.

It will be Q3 and Q4 that define whether the PR and communications industries have genuinely emerged from the downturn and can look forward to an optimistic future, because those quarters in 2009 already presaged slightly more encouraging noises from agencies and their clients.

There are still some agencies struggling to emerge from the recessionary mire, and there are still lingering fears of a double-dip–though, thankfully, those seem to be fading–but my feeling is that we are getting closer to defining the true shape of recovery in our industry.

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