WPP PR, public affairs revenue up 2.5% in 2014, 5.1% in Q4

The holding company praised the performance of Burson-Marsteller and Cohn & Wolfe, but said Hill+Knowlton Strategies was "more challenged."

WPP chief Martin Sorrell
WPP chief Martin Sorrell

LONDON: WPP’s PR and public affairs group reported a 2.5% like-for-like increase in revenue in 2014 to $1.3 billion on Monday morning.

The group saw a 5.1% like-for-like jump in revenue in the fourth quarter.

The holding company cited "strong growth in North America, the UK, and Asia-Pacific" in its earnings statement and singled out Burson-Marsteller, Cohn & Wolfe, and specialist PR and public affairs businesses for strong performances. However, it said "H+K Strategies [was] more challenged."

It also reported that the unit’s "improving top-line and good control of costs resulted in the operating margin improving by 1.1 margin points to 15.8% and by 1.3 margin points in constant currency."

The holding company owns and operates Burson, H+K, C&W, and Ogilvy Public Relations, among other firms.

Cohn & Wolfe CEO Donna Imperato said her firm achieved 11.5% global growth in 2014, driven by the firm’s integrated comms work across regions and practices. Consumer and healthcare were the agency’s fastest-growing practices.

"Cohn & Wolfe grew double digits every quarter last year. Much of the growth was thanks to meeting client demands for integrated marketing communications," she said. "This year, I budgeted for a 6% increase in revenue, but I expect it to be much higher."

Chief executives from other WPP PR agencies could not be immediately reached for comment.

In terms of the holding company’s overall performance, its revenue grew 8.2% on a like-for-like basis compared with 2013, and it saw revenue growth across regions. Like-for-like revenues were up 6.7% in January 2015, compared with the year prior.

The holding company’s profit before tax was $2.2 billion in 2014.

Broken down by region, US revenue increased by 9.5% in the fourth quarter to $5.9 billion, while UK revenue increased 12.9% on a like-for-like basis to $2.5 billion. The Western Continental Europe region saw a 3.8% like-for-like revenue increase to $3.8 billion, while the revenue earned in other regions was up 8% to $5.2 billion.  

Percentage increases on a like-for-like basis represent change without taking into account the impact of acquisitions or disposals or currency fluctuations.

This article was updated on March 9 with comment from Donna Imperato.

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