WPP PR revenue up 1.9% in Q1

WPP's PR and public affairs numbers continued to improve during the first quarter of 2014.

WPP CEO Martin Sorrell
WPP CEO Martin Sorrell

LONDON: WPP Group’s global organic PR and public affairs revenues rose 1.9% year over year in the first quarter of 2014, excluding acquisitions and currency changes.

Before currency changes, the holding company, which owns firms including Burson-Marsteller, Cohn & Wolfe, Hill+Knowlton Strategies, and Ogilvy Public Relations, reported a 4.1% drop in PR and public affairs revenue to £212 million ($356.4 million) in Q1. However, the recent strengthening of the pound against other currencies was the main culprit for the fall, and after stripping out currency changes revenue was actually up.

All regions except Latin America and the Middle East grew in the first quarter, with growth particularly strong in the UK, Asia-Pacific, and Africa.

Overall, WPP saw first-quarter revenue growth of 1.5% to £2.57 billion ($4.32 billion), with like-for-like growth of 7%.

On Friday, WPP revealed it is considering making a change to the incentive structure for its operating companies.

"The group continues to improve cooperation and coordination among its operating companies in order to add value to our clients’ businesses and our people’s careers, an objective that has been specifically built into short-term incentive plans," the company said in a statement. "We may, in addition, decide that a significant proportion of operating company incentive pools are funded and allocated on the basis of group-wide performance over the coming years."

WPP CEO Martin Sorrell has previously summed up the pursuit of coordination within the company with the word "horizontality." Earlier this month, he told PRWeek that WPP’s new government and public affairs practice was "horizontality at work."

In Burson-Marsteller’s soon-to-be published Agency Business Report profile for PRWeek US, Don Baer, CEO and worldwide chair of Burson-Marsteller, said the agency was flat overall in 2013, but that Q3 and Q4 were much better than the first half of the year, and that the improvement has carried on into Q1 2014. In the profile, Baer attributes the uptick to client work that started in these periods, such as corporate reputation work for Amazon and Comcast/NBC Universal, and crisis work for Target to reinforce the retailer’s response to its data breach problems in December. He also said it significantly expanded its work with Bank of America, its hallmark account win from 2013.

In Ogilvy PR’s soon-to-be published Agency Business Report profile, the agency also says it had a flat year globally in 2013, but it declined 10% in the US. However, like Burson, the agency points to encouraging signs in Q4, when it secured new work with Health and Human Services, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Department of Homeland Security. In the profile, global CEO Christopher Graves predicts a US rebound in 2014 for Ogilvy, citing New York as a key revenue generator.

In her Agency Business Report profile, Donna Imperato, CEO of Cohn & Wolfe said she anticipates global growth of 4%-5% in 2014, compared to the 1.8% it achieved in 2013; H+K strategies’ US president and CEO Andy Weitz said 2013 was the strongest in five years for the agency’s US operations.

Earlier this week, Interpublic Group’s PR agency unit, which includes Weber Shandwick, GolinHarris, DeVries, Current Lifestyle Marketing, and Axis, reported double-digit revenue growth in the first quarter of 2014.

Omnicom Group, which owns and operates FleishmanHillard, Porter Novelli, Ketchum, and Marina Maher Communications, among others, reported that its PR agencies achieved 1.2% organic revenue growth in Q1 to $325.4 million, compared with the prior year.

*This story was updated on April 25 at 2pm ET with figures from Burson-Marsteller, Ogilvy, and Cohn & Wolfe.


This story originally appeared on the website of PRWeek UK.

Figures were converted to US dollars using the XE Currency Converter.

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