WPP in surprise return to growth

WPP returned to growth in the third quarter of 2019, way ahead of expectations, although CEO Mark Read is counselling investors not to expect too much too soon, sticking to his guidance for no growth this year and performance in line with its peers by 2021.

It will be noted in Paris that WPP seems considerably ahead of one peer, Publicis, in the transformation stakes – Publicis reported negative organic growth of -2.7 per cent in Q3 while Read’s WPP grew by 0.5 per cent, not much but significant all the same. Third quarter revenue grew 5.2 per cent per cover the previous year (1.9 per cent at constant prices), another sign of progress.

Read (below), who can be excused a little glow, says: “WPP’s performance in the third quarter is another important step in the strategy we outlined in December 2018 to return the Company to sustainable growth in line with our peers in 2021.

“Our growth in Q3 is encouraging but we are focused on delivering these longer-term goals and know there will be twists and turns along the way. Our guidance for 2019 remains unchanged.

“It continues to be a successful year for new business, with major wins in the quarter including Mondelez and eBay, but just as importantly we are growing and retaining longstanding clients, such as the US Marine Corps and Centrica, who value the depth of our understanding and the longevity of the relationship.

“Yesterday, WPP shareholders voted to approve the Kantar transaction, which will further simplify our business and significantly strengthen our balance sheet, while creating a new partnership for Kantar’s future growth and development.

“In the last 12 months, WPP has taken decisive action and made substantial progress on many fronts: we have fewer, stronger agency brands; new leadership in many of our companies; enhanced central teams supporting our companies; and a renewed commitment to creativity, powered by technology. We have cemented our position as the largest partner to the world’s leading technology firms and, most importantly, the work we do continues to be highly valued by our clients as we adapt to their changing needs in a dynamic marketplace.”

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About Stephen Foster

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Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.