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WPP CEO says firm is making ‘good initial progress’

In WPP’s preliminary results for 2018, its CEO Mark Read said that the company’s new strategy has been making good progress since September. The newly formed VMLY&R, for example, has enjoyed a strong start, with client wins totalling $25 million in its first 90 days. This comes as WPP braces itself for a “challenging” 2019, particularly in the first half, due to headwinds from client losses in 2018.

While WPP is at the beginning of a three-year turnaround plan, Read said that WPP’s new positioning as a
“creative transformation company with stronger, more integrated, more tech-enabled agencies” is already proving effective. He added, “The quality of our creative work has been exceptional, with six WPP spots featuring at this year’s Super Bowl and work such as Grey’s ‘The Best Men Can Be’ for Gillette demonstrating once again the global impact of what we do.”

Among the efforts to achieve its vision to become a more client-centric WPP, the company has recently simplified its offerings through the creation of two new integrated networks, VMLY&R and Wunderman Thompson, and begun the process of seeking a financial and strategic partner for data consultancy arm, Kantar.

According to the statement, while financial results were at the upper end of guidance given in October, reported revenue was still down 1.3% at £15.602 billion. However, while Latin America grew over 7% and Central & Eastern Europe showed double digit growth, Asia Pacific and Africa & the Middle East were slightly weaker, with 2% growth in the region.

Meanwhile, data investment management revenue was down 2.8% in the fourth quarter according to WPP’s preliminary results. As healthcare businesses in North America and some direct, interactive and eCommerce businesses came under pressure, WPP’s brand consulting, health & wellness and specialist communications also performed less well in the fourth quarter with revenue increasing by just 0.2%, compared to 6.5% in the third quarter.

Uptrends

On the positives, Read said that WPP has fewer clients under review than it did last year, and will be improving its competitiveness through further investments in creativity and technology.

WPP preliminary results for 2018 showed that advertising and media investment is recovering from the -6.5% revenue in the third quarter to a 1.6% dip in the fourth quarter, which is its strongest of the year. Public relations and public affairs businesses continued its lead as the strongest performing sector as they were in the first half and third quarter, with growth of 3.3% and 1.2% respectively.

Overall, Read said that business is performing strongly in Western Continental Europe, Asia Pacific, Latin America, Africa & the Middle East and Central & Eastern Europe, and the company will be addressing its performance in the United States.

In January, global marketing agency VMLY&R made a few changes to its regional focus as it looks to zoom in on six key areas – brand stewardship, advisory, commerce, content and media innovation, data & insights, and experience and technology. More recently, Wunderman Thompson launched its new brand identity to reflect itself as a creative, data and technology agency.

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