Sorrell spoke to PRWeek on Tuesday as WPP Group, which owns Burson-Marsteller, Hill & Knowlton and Ogilvy PR, posted its latest results.
WPP revealed that PR and public affairs revenues had slumped by 6.1 per cent on a like-for-like basis compared with the same period the previous year.
In contrast, advertising and media investment management fell by just 3.9 per cent.
‘It’s the first quarter for some time that we’ve seen PR under a bit of pressure,’ Sorrell told PRWeek.
‘You will continue to see a similar trend over the next few quarters. PR tends to be more project-driven – when people are looking for discretionary cuts they tend to go after projects.’
The comments from Sorrell, a respected economic forecaster, will pour cold water on the notion that PR budgets are being impacted less by the recession than those of other marketing disciplines.
In late 2008, Sorrell claimed the PR sector had enjoyed a ‘remarkable renaissance’ and forecast that the trend would continue at his PR agencies into 2009.
First quarter results from key rival Omnicom Group, which owns Fleishman-Hillard, Ketchum and Gavin Anderson, also saw PR suffer more than other marketing disciplines.
PR revenue was down 10.5 per cent for the quarter, compared with a 4.3 per cent decline in traditional media advertising.
But at Interpublic Group (IPG), which owns Weber Shandwick and Golin Harris, chairman and CEO Michael Roth said PR revenues had shown ‘only a slight organic decrease’.