WPP sees PR slowdown recur with 0.1% organic revenue growth

The holding company behind Burson-Marsteller and Hill+Knowlton Strategies has reported disappointing third quarter revenue growth at its PR and public affairs division.

Sir Martin Sorrell: Heads the group behind agencies such as Finsbury and Cohn & Wolfe
Sir Martin Sorrell: Heads the group behind agencies such as Finsbury and Cohn & Wolfe

Revenues came in at £214m ($342m / €272m), dropping by £15m, or 6.4 per cent from the same quarter last year, due to the increase in the strength of sterling against the other currencies in which WPP generates its income.

However, on the organic growth measure, which gives a clearer picture of WPP’s performance relative to its rivals, the company was able to claim the barest margin of upward momentum with a 0.1 per cent increase year-on-year.

The company claimed that all regions except Continental Europe showed positive net sales growth in the third quarter, and there was particularly strong growth in content development in the US through SJR.

Source: WPP financial statements
Source: WPP financial statements

WPP’s US-headquartered rivals have claimed respective third quarter organic PR revenue growth of 2.5 per cent for Omnicom and "high single digits" for Interpublic.

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Cohn & Wolfe CEO Donna Imperato said her firm "is having a record year, with double-digit revenue growth fueled by several multimillion-dollar new business wins and increased assignments across paid, owned, and earned channels."

Newly minted Ogilvy PR CEO Stuart Smith was not immediately available for comment. The CEOs of Buson-Marsteller and Hill+Knowlton Strategies both declined comment on the quarterly earings.

However, WPP continues to put in a strong overall performance, with like-for-like revenues up 8.7 per cent on the back of a 17.1 per cent increase in its biggest business stream, advertising and media investment management (a net sales increase of 5.5 per cent).

This outpaced French rival Publicis Groupe, which does not provide figures for its PR division but reported overall third quarter organic growth of one per cent last week.

This story was updated on October 31 with comment from Imperato.

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